Around the World in 80 Models: Attica

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Hop on board as we continue our journey Around the World in 80 Models! We began our itinerary at Sketchfab headquarters in New York and are working our way through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, and North America. To catch up on past destinations, check out the rest of the Around the World in 80 Models series.

This week Sketchfab Master Néstor F. Marqués gives us a sneak peek of the soon-to-be published 3D collection of Greek vases from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain.

Attica, Greece: Krater of Dionysus and his Entourage

Hi, I’m Néstor F. Marqués with the Laboratorio de Humanidades Digitales (Digital Humanities Laboratory) at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Spain. We’re putting our efforts to develop and apply all kinds of technology to humanities, especially to Cultural Heritage.

As a researcher in archaeology, I know that the single most important thing (and the most difficult one) of any research is to reach the public; to return the knowledge we’ve generated to society. Nowadays, people are driven by technology, in fact, we all live in a 100% technological environment (you are in it as you read this). So… why don’t we archaeologists, art historians, heritage experts in general, take advantage of all this by using technology in our favor to spread culture and knowledge. That’s the main premise of our lab. We are trying to get to the people by bringing 3D archaeological objects to them; let them experience, touch and admire the objects from their homes or at the museum.

We are working with several museums to initiate them in these new ways of documentation. One of the main projects we are currently working on is the creation of the 3D collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Spain by scanning their masterpieces for everyone to see them in a new way, for researchers to have them available everywhere and to give the museum the single best kind of documentation possible.

Our main goal with the National Archaeological Museum of Spain is to make a selection of the most relevant pieces of each period and make them available in 3D for everyone to see, thus becoming one of the most important 3D archaeological collections in the world. We have started our virtualization process with one of the most amazing collections this museum preserves: the Greek pottery collection. Its origins date back to the finest private collections in the 18th and 19th centuries such as the Marqués de Salamanca’s or even the royal collection of the Spanish monarchy.

Today, the museum has a great variety of vessels, some of them very rare as the Kylix of Aison and interesting as the bilingual amphora of Apollo and Dionysos (available in 3D, follow the Museum’s account if you don’t want to miss them) which show us not only the path in Greek history, but also their customs, their stories and their ways of living thanks to the iconographical representations beautifully painted in red, black or white.

To represent the collection we have chosen a krater originally pertaining to the Marqués de Salamanca’s collection, one of the finest of the 19th century in Spain. José de Salamanca was a Spanish businessman who made his fortune through investments and railroad projects such as the one made for the pontifical states in Italy where he acquired most of his fine Greek pottery collection, buying them in the antiquarian market and in some archaeological diggings he made while installing the railway tracks.

Detail of Dionysos in the center of the image with his entourage around him

Detail of Dionysos in the center of the image with his entourage around him

This calyx krater from the Pronomos painter is a unique Attic vessel of the late 5th century B.C. Its images lead us to the universe of Dionysus: on the front, in a mountainous landscape, the god is accompanied by satyrs, maenads and two white erotes, symbol of happiness and mystical bliss that communicate with the madness of ecstasy and music, to the followers of god. The other side shows the counterpoint of the Dionysian cult: the unbridled madness promoted by the frenetic music and ecstatic dance of maenads and satyrs. See for yourself and feast your eyes on these images.

But the Greek collection was not chosen only for being one of the most relevant in the world (and now the most important one available in 3D). It was chosen for the technical challenge that came with it. It’s well known for everyone dedicated or interested in 3D scanning that shiny or metal objects are most difficult ones to scan and it’s nearly impossible to get them perfect. I took this as a challenge, an opportunity to test the limits of photogrammetry and see for sure if it was possible to scan them as accurate as possible.


One of the pieces of the collection in the process of acquiring data to document it in 3D

The thirty scanned pieces of the collection are the result of the development of a methodology specifically designed to work with glazed pottery, but applicable to any kind of shiny material. Of course, one of the main things to avoid was using any kind of dust or spray on the surface of the vessels, due to the damage they could make to the piece itself. This can be done to scan regular objects, but I’m afraid it’s not useful when dealing with highly valuable heritage objects. Our approach was based in using very controlled lab like polarized light conditions to minimize brightness and a very specific pattern to scan the objects so we could get every detail of the surface and texture without distortions or aberrations.

Once scanned, we get very detailed 15M+ polygon meshes with 8k unlit textures thanks to this specific way of capturing the pieces. An added advantage is that we get a texture completely free of the brightness of the object, so experts can study the iconography and show it better, without reflections. The final step is it to reproduce the original brightness of the vessel, especially taking into account which parts are glazed and which not or the amount of brightness each part has to make a perfect match between the original piece and the 3D one.

Checking the tone and brightness of one of the pieces of the collection

Checking the tone and brightness of one of the pieces of the collection

The result is what you can see on the National Archaeological Museum of Spain’s Sketchfab profile. Make sure to follow it to stay tuned and be the first to see the new pieces we’ll be adding. Also, you can leave a comment to tell us which collections of the museum would you love to see in 3D.

Some of the pieces of the collection at Skechfab

Some of the pieces of the collection soon available at Sketchfab

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or projects you want to discuss with our Lab, you can contact us via my Sketchfab profile, the Lab’s facebook page or even by mail.

To see more of the National Archaeological Museum of Spain’s models here on Sketchfab, check out their profile.

About the author

Abby & Néstor

Abby and Néstor are Sketchfab Masters.
Abby Crawford, Ph.D. is trained in and passionate about Roman Archaeology and works as a freelance artifact illustrator and 3D scanner in California.
Néstor F. Marqués is a virtual Heritage & cultural diffusion researcher, and an enthusiast of ancient Rome’s culture.


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