Petra 2011

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March 2011


The kind invitation of the International Umm Al-Biyara Project (IUBP), a project directed by Stephan G. Schmid (Humbold-University of Berlin) and Piotr Bienkowski (Manchester), in collaboration between the Association for the Understanding of Ancient Cultures (AUAC) and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan led to a recent visit of Petra the famous antique rock carved city. It is an amazing place for people who are interested in the development of civilization in general (keyword ‘fertile crescent’) and for the special region of Petra and the Jordan valley.

  • Al Beidha

First settlements in Petra date back to the Iron Age. These Edomites used the strategic places of hill tops for building solid houses made of stone. Traces of accommodations are still visible as well as carved and plastered cisterns and channels in a typical bell shape (see the photo album).

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The project established two excavations for this spring champagne. One was situated just next to one of the Edomite settlements at the top of Umm Al-Biyara. The second continued a research which started already nearly 20 years ago at Az-Zantur right in the Petra valley centre. For more detailed information just check their website.

  • Adventure tour


However, the city is not only an archive of past societies. The caves are still vibrant:

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Little Petra and Al Beidha


The small but not younger sister of Petra is the so called Little Petra area. Although it contains of only a few grave complexes from the Nabataeans one can find there well hidden treasures e.g. the only preserved fresco of whole Petra, the biggest cistern in the area – still working and a wonderful silent (because of less tourists) and green landscape.

The latter fact is also a hint why the whole area belongs to the Fertile Crescent, a launch pad for the so called Neolithic Revolution. Very first settlements of human kind can be found (next to others) along the Jordan Valley stretching from the Sea of Galilee to the Red Sea at Aqaba. One of these settlements is only 8 km north of Petra – the Neolithic Al Beidha.

The site is amazingly well preserved since houses were made of stone. For this reason, they share some similarity with the famous Neolithic site Skara Brae at the Orkney Islands. Since both sites date to the Neolithic period Al-Beidha is nearly twice as old as Skara Brae!

Since Al-Beidha dates to the Pre-Pottery-Period no ceramic objects can be found. However, one can still admire original grinding stones in situ or discover post holes inside the walls supposed for supporting a roof similar to the reconstruction you can see in the next photo album:

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Al Beidha

However, finding the very place is not easy since there is no sign or map of the sites. Hence, in search for the Neolithic site in Little Petra I was recommended to join a group of French travelers who were heading towards the site. The group turned out – unfortunately too late for me – being a high advanced climbing group which was keen to look for the most adventures way inside the mountain range (actually a quite nice climbing and hiking area but not without warning 😳 ).

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Finally, I found the site thanks to the professional help of the French and Bedouin guides and the charming encouragement of their group.

The way back turned out to be a comfortable footpath:

View Al Beidha & Little Petra in a larger map


My way back home to Germany via Amman crossed the capital’s citadel with its Archaeological Museum full of very famous objects:




Good bye kind and peaceful Jordan!

kubit Workshop 3D-Laserscanning

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31 January 2011


The topic of laser scanning with the generation and analysis of 3D point clouds is nowadays more relevant than ever. After initial euphoria and disillusion this technique became meanwhile a true alternative to traditional non-contact measuring techniques.


In the recent past, many things have changed:

• a user-friendly 3-D analysis software is available

• a large price drop in the hardware segment is observed

• the scanner hardware has become much smaller and more manageable


The informative kubit workshop was not only focusing on users like architects, enineers or criminologists but also on scientists who try to document anthropological remains in a precise and efficent way.

All participants got an insight into all last developments mentioned above. However, because of the fully packed program of just one afternoon many questions remained unanswered. As a consequence, kubit runs a series of serval workshops in the near future focusing on user-specified topics (for Berlin see the Event Calendar – right column of this site).

3D GeoInfo 2010

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3./4. November 2010


The annual and international conference 3D GeoInfo with changing venue offers an insight into the latest developments in the field of 3D geo-information for the subjects of urban development, cartography, technology and industry. This year the focus lied on remote sensing, photogrammetry, 3D laser and visualisation techniques. The conference was organised under the auspices of the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation at the Technical University Berlin, Prof. Kolbe. I took part with a presentation on “3D voxel-based GIS models of archaeological records” at the Scientific Brunch, a very informal last session of the conference which a bias to more discussion than presentation which was really enjoyable. The digital representation of volumes using voxel is still relatively young in archeology. Above all, the presentation of the latest analysis methods of digital 3D city reconstructions were very inspiring. The proceeding of the conference with a selection of all presentations has already been published. For the next conference in 2011 see the Event Calender – right column of this site.


INTERGO auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen


5.-7. October 2010


The annual national congress with an attached trade fair INTERGEO provides an insight into the latest developments in the subject of surveying technology concerning hardware and software. The congress discussed the theoretical background to the exhibition products, such as the latest approaches to global satellite and terrestrial data collection methods of measurement. TOPOI projects with archaeological, geographical and architectural background use partly similar techniques and methods for documentation. Hence, there is a general interest in my project of staying up-to-date with latest developments in this field. For the next INTERGEO 2011 see Event Calendar – right column of this site.

EAA 2010 – European Association of Archaeologists

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1.-5. September 2010


The annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) deals with a special profile of European Archaeology and Anthropology.

It supports the development of archaeological research as well as the exchange of archaeological information. At the same time the conference opens up the possibility of international exchanges between research and conservation at a European level.
In the past, the conference supported major standards based on ethical values and archaeological methods. It also supports the ratification of the Malta Convention of 1992 on the protection of archaeological remains and became member of the Council of Europe in 2003.

This year the conference started with several excursions to archaeological sites. I chose the ‘Dutch Prehistoric Landscape Tour’ which lasted one whole day and gave the participants a nice overview about different prehistoric regions and periods in Netherland.

The first stop was in the town of Almere, province of Flevoland – opposite Amsterdam, a new part of land recently reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer. Initially, the district belonged to the continent. Hence, a great amount of archaeological evidences, very well preserved underneath about 8 m of soil, starting in the Mesolithic period could be expected. Because of the great thickness of covering layers common archaeological excavations were not possible. Hence, the Dutch colleagues decided to get a insight into the underground using a geophysical and geological approach (drill cores) for investigating the underground. Furthermore, we visited a Swifterbant site and finally a terp site in Friesland (see also the album images at the end of this text).

My greatest interest of the conference sessions was the field of soil micro-morphology, a mainly geoarchaeological topic. The subject is very rarely discussed in a European context although there is definately a large number of applications. Hence, the session lasted for more than two days. This issue is primarily concerned with human-generated stratigraphy and their micro-analysis, an essential issue in my current research. If you became curios not only for micro-morphology but also for the whole conference have a look at the abstracts.

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CAA 2010 – Fusion of Cultures




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6.-9. April 2010


The annual conference about “Computer Application in Archaeology” was held this year in Granada/Spain, a wonderful place where one can still go skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and simultainiously swimming at the Southern Coast of  Spain in April.

But this was not the reason we came to this marvellous place. The CAA was of course the main attraction starting with a great tour to the famous Bronze Age hillford . We had a nice guide from the university of Granada who showed us not only the site but also the tiny but very well arranged museum. From the Los Millares Site I bought a DVD. So if anyone is interested in borrow it just feel free to contact me!

The conference has come to an end already some month ago. Hence, I do not want to go into too much detail. For those how are interested in the conference abstracts part 1 and part 2 you can download them here.

The final excursion to the was an unforgettable event where we learned that at this very place the met the and used the latter as slaves …

“Travel broadens the mind!” 😉

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International Workshop: “Interconneted data worlds. Workshop on the implementation of CIDOC-CRM“


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Report from the 23th and 24th November 2009: coming soon

14. International Congress “Cultural Heritage and New Technologies” (Workshop “Archäologie & Computer”) 2009


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16.-18. November 2009


The annual held conference at Vienna deals at one hand with the Cultural Heritage conservation and preservation in connection with marketing in terms of tourism and the trade of antiquities and the protection of religious culture – see the detailed schedule of Monday and Tuesday.

On the other hand, the topic “New Technologies” consists of workshop about Photogrammetry, GIS– and CAD-applications (this time the kubit company presented its software I already use very successfully like Point Cloud 3D, TachyCAD, PhotoPlan and MonuMap) applications.

Report from Monday, 16th November 2009:

Since GIS is also not new for me I choose the Photogrammetry-workshop held by Prof. Pfeifer and Dr. Ressel (TU Vienna) dealing with the very complex theoretical background. A practical advice was given by Dr. Herbig for an useful workflow practicing photogrammetry as a researcher in the fields of architecture, archaeology or even ethnology,

The workshop was very well prepared so that all participants went out with a bunch of useful information material. However, when the question came to a recommendation of software we could use, the experts had some trouble to answer it satisfactory. The reason is that there is no variety of OS Software in this field nor is the proprietary software sorted into the low budged category. Hence, the aim of the lecturers was more focused of making us able for choosing the right software.

The afternoon with the session “Newbies” invented by Samuel Paley (Archaeology, Buffalo) and chaired by Michael Doneus (Archaeology, Vienna) offered a variety of new technical approaches in term of documentation and analysis. Really outstanding were two presentations by students. Katharina Holzinger presented TUGeoWiki a tagging tool for cultural heritage. The discussion afterwards became inflamed, as usual by presenting a map of archaeological sites, by the use of this tool if all archaeological treasures should be displayed for the public.

From my point of view, digital maps have the great advantage against paper prints the can be sorted thematically in a very fast way. An advantage of web tools is the possibility to apply restrictions as e.g. every facebook user knows that she/he can upload pictures for public or private friends.

The second student showed us a very impressive virtual reconstruction of the Mastaba at Gizeh by using Adobe 3D-pdf Model Viewer. The modular application made it possible to switch between views, e.g. showing original inscription at the walls or already their translation.

Report from Tuesday, 17th November 2009:

The second was occupied by presentations of several database systems concerning mainly archiving systems of cultural heritage departments and museums. The workflow was often very similar: Every institution developed its own database system until they realised the project gets out of their hands they hired often very expensive companies from which they – of course – still depend on. As far as I could see there was no communication between cultural heritage departments of different states. Since every state administrates more or less the same data it is unbelievable that they all reinvent the wheel again and again.

For the administration and archiving of picture I heard several times about the use of ThumbPlus. None used the OS pendant HyperImage I would recommend.

The presentation of the Archaeological Data Service managing archaeological data standardised all over Britain was then a successful pendant to the Middle-Age-like German sectionalism. ADS is not only a progressive example of standardization, maintenance and sharing of data it is also a successful story of how university and cultural heritage can successful co-operate.

Finally, the database factor in my presentation was a bit underrepresented since I was focused on presenting our concept of a virtual research platform where archiving data is just one small part of the whole tool which did not meet the right audience. So maybe it would have fit a bit better into the IT-Education session on …

Report from Wednesday, the 18th November 2009:

… because such functionalities are also possible in Topoi2.0. However, it did not fit right into any of the available session. Let’s have a next try at the CAA 2010

At last, a great eye-catcher was the presentation by Monsieur Chazine about his spatial analysis of the diversion of hand marks using Manning’s ratio a theory about the correlation of finger length and gender.

From my point of view, after having determined the sex I would apply a GIS analysis for a spatial analysis of the distribution of hand marks on certain cave walls (I missed to mention that at the conference since it was already very late at the day).

Free Download of the proceedings:

Deutscher Geographentag 2009


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19.-26. September 2009


The “Deutscher Geographentag 2009”  is the largest geographical Geographers conference in the German-speaking communities. It takes place every two years in another university town. The event is aimed in its first time in 2007 as a general congress of the geographical associations designed form part of the same science, practice and school. The Geographers provides a forum for professional discussions and the dialogue both between the participants and between the sub-disciplines of geography. This year’s Geographers conference is the fourth in Austria. In 1891 the Congress had once performed in Vienna, Innsbruck 1912 and 1975 was the venue. My first impression is a very well organised conference. The different venues are easily to reach by foot. It seems that the nearly the whole university is involved organising the conference not only for discussion places but also for time to relax.

Live report from 20/09/09:

I had already my first GIS-workshop yesterday, which dealt which a hydrological analysis. The workshop was actual a promotion for the GIS-software-package Intergraph. The software is free available for university and, more important, it includes some row data of digital German landscape (DGMs), hydrology and infrastructure (vector data) also for free. Therefore, I will consider ordering the package for Topoi.

The software is very similar to ArcGIS. The lecturer mentioned that it is used in many governmental and industrial Geography departments. Therefore, the package could become interesting for Topoi-members who look for a future job in these fields!


Live report from 21/09/09:

Today we had the only session of geo-archaeology. As expected, the reports were mainly focused on geography with just a slight regard of archaeology :-(.

We heard very interesting presentations of Stefan Dreibrodt and Rainer Dambeck about the successful co-operation of geographical and archaeological tandem projects in different parts of Europe. Stefan Dreibrodt presented results of geo-archaeological investigations of Bosnia-Herzogovina and Saxony-Anhalt. Rainer Dambeck displayed interdisciplinary results of a transect across the valley of Rio Sizandro, Portual, which ended up in very good absolute dates of geomorphologic and archaeological events. As an outlook, the project plans some GIS-based analysis for investigating erosion zones to explain the origin of the great amount of alluvial material and its archaeological artefacts within the valley.

In comparison to the former, Barbara Neumann gave an introduction to the recently started project of a predictive model considering the border area Saarland/France after the coffee break. The model looks for Roman villae rusticae. The discussion mentioned the over-represented parameters of environmental determinism of the first test model. We are curious of the final results!

Fuzzy logic:

… was the topic of my GIS-workshop this afternoon. Prof. Kainz gave a great introduction into the topic. After the theorethical part we worked with a practical example. For this he provided us with a selfmade python-script for practising fuzzy logic in ArcGIS, a similar tool we can expect in the next version 4.0 of ESRI.

Live report from 22/09/09:

The spatial SQL function in Manifold GIS is a powerful tool I learned this morning. In comparison to ArcGIS it combines vector and raster queries in the same syntax. Therefore, if you are familiar with SQL syntax you are able to create powerful spatial queries in short time. The stress lies in ‘familiar with’ because the learning curve is quite steep at the start.

Strange but comprehensive was the first glance into the geographer’s gis-lab – full of macs but with a windows operating system. But don’t worry they have both systems, of course.

The afternoon was consumed by a guided tour through the worldwide first and only Globenmuseum of Vienna, a part of the Austrian National Library. The guide was the director Jan Mokre himself, an expert in the field of Globology.

The museum stores not only globes but also historic maps! The highlight is a hyperglobus – a digital version of the famous Mercator globe. The original one can admire in the museum, too.

If one is interested in working with this map of the 16th century, just feel free to contact Jan Mokre. He confirmed that maps are available for research projects!

Live report from 23/09/09:

Upcoming session: “Working with mobile GIS”

ArcPad is the mobile extension of ArcGIS – a tool for pocket PCs, notebooks etc. – all mobile devices with a GPS receiver. ArcPad works as an extended GPS device. Like in ArcGIS one can store vector data as points, polylines and polygones as common shapefiles. It is possible to load satellite pictures, aerial photographs or similar as background image. If the data are already in the right projection and co-ordinate system they are instantly ready for use in a desktop GIS.

The hook is the GPS itself. As usual, the precision is between 3 to 10 meters. Suitable for survey but if one needs more accuracy it is possible to buy reference data by the German company SAPOS.

In conclusion, I think it’s a great tool. I will try to install it at one of our project tablet PCs and keep you informed if it works!

The very informative workshop was also my last one. A great end – a great conference. I hope, I could make you a little bit curious for the future conferences of this subject. The “Deutscher Geographentag” is held every second year.

A last typical impression of Vienna, the conference venue this year. Good bye!

35th Anniversary of the Harris Matrix

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17.-19. September 2009


In honour of the invention of the Harris Matrix 35 years ago the Austrian Academy of Science, the VIAS-Vienna Institute of Archaeological Science, the University of Vienna and the Bermuda Maritime Museum organised an unforgetable conference in Vienna from the 17th to 20th September 2008.

Most unusual but very inspiring was the division of the conference into two part – one ‘theoretical’ and one ‘practical’. The ‘theory’ was the normal custom of conferences – having presentations and discussions, the practical part consited of three days of very exciting excursions.

However, the most exciting point was, of course, meeting the famous Harris Matrix inventor Dr. Edward Harris himself! He showed great interest in what has become of his Matrix so far.

Invited speekers from all around the world gave an insight into their (relative) relationships with the Harris Matrix. If you are interested in having a look into the list of participants, please have a look at the conference website.

I would like to give you a row overview just from my point of view:


1. ‘Beyond the Surface’ – was an update on stratigraphic theory by Wolfgang Neubauer
He presented his theory of defining archaeological stratigraphy. This new approach was taken over by the software


2. ‘Harris Matrix Composer’ which is still under development by Christoph Traxler
and will be released within the next future incorporating a connection to GIS.


3.’Man-made stratigraphy’ by Madri Maura
dealt with vertical stratigraphy within architecture.


4. In ‘Tula Hidalgo Mexico’ presented by Oswaldo Sterpone
the Harris Matrix served as a vital tool for understanding complexe temple sites.


5. The ‘Importance of stratigraphy for forensic applications’ was very clearly presented by Ian Hanson
and finally resulted in the common acknowledge that excavation standards are urgently needed.


6. Yep and finally my presentation ‘New applications for the Harris Matrix diagram in 3D GIS model building’
where I came surprisingly to a similar conclusion of stratification by building virtual stratigraphy as Wolfgang Neubauer with his practical experiences he presented together with his theory.


However no wonder, the best speech was given by Dr. Edward Harris himself who was so kind to give us a little insight into his biography and current life on Bermuda. He mentioned also some interesting developments of the Harris Matrix diagram so far, e.g. David Bibby’s permutations.

The second part, the excursion, gave us a great overview of Austrian archaeology especially the work of the VIAS-Institute Vienna.


We visited:


If you became curious just have a look here.