Photo Masking Palestine Exploration Fund Objects

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This application enables the creation of a high quality 3D model of an archaeological artefact via process known as photo-masking. There has been a revolution in 3D modelling in recent years and it is now relatively easy to construct such models from ordinary digital photographs. Isolating the object depicted in these photographs, and masking out the background, is an important first step to achieving high quality results. The final 3D model will be made publicly available and is useful not only for basic documentation purposes, but also for graphical displays in museums, for inclusion in gaming and virtual reality environments, or for identifying different sub-styles in otherwise similar types of artefact (that might tell us about the date of the artefact, where it was made, or by whom).

This particular photo-masking application is looking at three objects from the collections of the Palestine Exploration Fund:

Lantern Slide Projector

This lantern slide projector, held in the Palestine Exploration Fund's collections, probably dates to the early 20th century. Photography was a major part of the PEF's research activity from its foundation, and glass slides would have been placed in this projector during public lectures to showcase the PEF's activities in the field. Fundraising was essential to ensure the continuation of PEF expeditions, and lectures were (and continue to be) a popular way to engage audiences to support projects.

A lantern slide projector similar to this one could have been purchased in London from the Army and Navy Stores Ltd. Their Victoria Street premises had a range of magic and educational lantern slide projectors to fit any budget.

Cast of Haggai’s Seal

The PEF held its first exhibition in London at Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in 1869. The photographs and objects displayed there were the products of the Fund’s first four years of exploration and excavation in the Holy Land. During this time, PEF explorer and Royal Engineer Charles Warren had been excavating in Jerusalem, digging long shafts or tunnels through the ground of the city to determine its history.

Ophel, a hill in Jerusalem, was one of the sites he excavated. Among the many objects he found there was an inscribed seal bearing the words “Haggai, the son of Shebenaiah”. At the time, the seal was believed to relate to the Biblical prophet Haggai. The seal itself was displayed in Case 1 of the exhibition, along with other objects from Ophel. The PEF also had the seal reproduced as a cast in metal. Exhibition visitors could purchase the cast for two shillings and sixpence; profits from the sales helped the PEF continue their programme of research.

The Er-Rum Mask

This stone mask was purchased in a village called Ramah, or Er-Rum, a few miles away from Jerusalem. The buyer was one Dr Thomas Chaplin (1830-1904), head of the British Hospital for the Jews in Jerusalem, and a valued local supporter of the Fund’s explorers. Chaplin believed that the villagers of Ramah considered the mask “a talisman”. His speculations on it were published in the October 1890 issue of the Fund’s Quarterly Statement along with a detailed drawing of its front and back. He had consulted Flinders Petrie about the mask’s chronology. Petrie believed it dated to the Canaanite period – today it is believed to be from the Neolithic.

For more information, see:

We would like people to draw a polygon around the object that they see in each photograph in order to identify its outline and exclude the image background. This allows the 3D modelling process to concentrate on the object itself and ignore irrelevant background information.

If you are interested in what a 3D completed model looks like, please have a look at the example here for a MicroPasts palstave model.

This project is on behalf of:

The PEF logo

Find the code on GitHub

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