Visualising Animal Hard Tissues

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: Sch of Life Sciences

Abstract

From earliest times people have used hard skeletal tissues, such as bone, antler, ivory, horn, baleen (whalebone) and tortoiseshell, as raw material to create almost everything from simple tools to subtle and evocative works of art. Working these raw materials can greatly change their appearance and decay processes can render them almost unrecognisable. Today animal hard tissues have almost entirely been replaced as raw material for artefacts by metallic alloys and synthetic plastics, and wildlife conservation concerns have made some unavailable and unacceptable. With the passing of these raw materials, familiarity with their characteristics and properties has been lost, posing a challenge for those who work with historic and prehistoric artefacts, and to the detection of illegally trafficked, CITES protected materials. The correct identification of these materials is, however, fundamental to understanding the cultural significance, preservation needs and authenticity of these objects.

Research is already in hand to refine and develop identification protocols through the collation, evaluation and validation of visual criteria and analytical techniques. This work has made great strides in improving our confidence in recognising, for instance, objects made in different species of ivory or in separating real tortoiseshell from fakes in horn or plastic. Using low-power microscopy, this can be done without the need to take disfiguring samples and at no risk to the object, by revealing the materials structure and patterns of degradation. However, like wood, these are complex 3D materials that can look and behave entirely differently depending on how they are worked and which aspects are revealed in the surfaces of an object. To interpret the evidence correctly it is necessary to understand the orientation of the object in terms of the material's natural structure. This is particularly difficult when similarly worked specimens of these materials are not available for comparison with the object being studied. Even if some of these raw materials, such as rhino horn, were available, it would be illegal (and questionable ethically) to prepare worked specimens. Using printed or web resources, illustrated by 2D diagrams and photographs to convey the detail of these complex structures, success largely relies on the ability of the user to think in 3D, and will not always lead to the correct identification. To overcome these problems, this project will develop a web-based resource for the 3D visualisation of the structures of these animal tissues.

At its core will be a fully-rotatable 3D photo-realistic image of each raw material, a 3D diagram of its structure and 3D X-rays (CT scans) revealing the internal shape and structure. Zooming-in, the surface of the material can be explored at different scales with 'hot-spots' linking to photographs at a range of magnifications showing the structures revealed when it is cut in different directions, worked in different ways, fractured, aged or degraded. Once the correct material has been identified, it will be possible to orientate images of the object against the framework of the 3D model by matching the features revealed on the surface of an object with those indicated in the model. This will aid understanding of how the raw material was utilised and provide estimates of the size of the original tissue used, such as the minimum dimensions of the elephant tusk required to provide the material for a sculpture.

Supported by on-line tutorials, this interactive visualisation resource will not only improve the accuracy of materials identification but will be an invaluable tool for researchers exploring the way that these raw materials have been used in the manufacture of artefacts, whether functional tools, devotional objects or fine art, across all time periods and geographical zones.

Planned Impact

The project will have a significant and lasting impact beyond academia, with heritage practitioners and curators benefiting directly from skills and knowledge transfer via the proposed interactive web-based resource. We anticipate broad uptake by object handlers and museum assistants, specialists working with antiques/ for auction houses, and conservators working in heritage institutions and the private sector.

Use of this identification resource will have a positive impact on the recognition, authentication, care and curation of cultural objects in both public and private collections. Correct identifications will improve the accuracy of accession records, collections catalogues, display labelling and graphics and communicate enhanced understanding of the collections to the public. In addition this will revise our understanding of the cultural significance of objects and, perhaps, such newly revealed aspects of the collections will inform new displays or inspire entire exhibitions. Success will be demonstrated by conservators, curators and researchers adopting protocols developed during this research, and by a greater precision and confidence in the published identifications of artefacts, leading to new research questions.

The development of a web-based resource will ensure widespread dissemination and will feature as a component of hands-on identification workshops regularly delivered to conservators, curators and researchers from across the heritage sector and participants from fine arts auction houses. It will also be a resource for use by those involved in the conservation of wildlife and the detection of illegally trafficked CITES protected materials including Police and Revenue & Customs officers.

The envisaged interactive web resource can be used in environments where interaction with museum collections are actively encouraged, for instance at talks and object handling sessions for both schools and adult groups and also providing identifications of objects they bring with them.

Further impact will be managed through a press launch, magazine and broadcast media contributions, and through the Ivory Cluster and University of Bradford website.
 
Description The project used new innovations in 3D imaging to create a resource to inform practitioners of the transformative changes and features of worked animal hard tissues using comparative images and a detailed understanding of the nature of the raw materials.

3D photo-realistic models of raw material sources can be viewed and interrogated in a number of different formats using a webGL viewer as part of an interactive web resource developed for use by individuals who need to identify, characterise and understand the working properties and response of animal hard tissues to transformative processes including object production, taphonomic alteration and environmental changes across different fields working with cultural objects.

The resource allows the user to access diagrammatic models of the macro- and micro-structure of the raw material, together with images of specific sections, worked surfaces and characteristic damage oriented to the overall 3D model of the original raw material.

The project built upon the legacy of the hugely successful Science & Heritage Programme Research Cluster: Researching Ivory: Integrating scientific analyses, historical data, artefact studies and conservation needs.
Exploitation Route The webresource is already of interest to academic users (archaeologists, ethnographers, zoologists and natural historians) and will be used for the identification of artefact raw materials by curators, conservators, valuers/auctioneers and researchers working with both public and private collections. Of particular importance is the potential that this resource holds for government and security agencies in recognising the trafficking of illegal materials as part of CITES enforcement.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.3dbones.org/visual/preview/index.php
 
Description A number of workshop events have been held to introduce participants to content from the web resource including: -Two day ID workshop introducing the project to the ICON Ethnographic section at Oxford University Museum of Natural History/Pitt Rivers Museum, 8th and 9th April 2014. 10 particpants, all from museums of which two were from universities and 1 was overseas. -IFA Organic Finds Day at the Dept. Archaeology, University of Leicester, 28th May - half day workshop on ID of bone, antler and ivory and introduction to VAHT. c20 participants, all heritage organisations, some may be commercial units. The VAHT web resource was promoted at 1 The ICON Ethnographic Group, two-day animal hard tissues identification workshop April 2014 held at OUNHM. The participants were 50/50 conservators and curatorial staff and where Pitt Rivers Museum Museum of Reading Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo Liverpool Museums V&A Birmingham Museums Trust British Museum Oxford University Museum of Natural History Natural History Museum Other participants with a Natural History Collections/Curatorial background 2 The IFA Organic Finds CPD Workshop on the Wednesday 28th May 2014. 1/2 day course on the identification of animal hard tissues presented Participants on the course included: Wardell Armstrong Archaeology Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service University of Leicester Archaeological Services Living in the Past community Archaeology Project Oxford Archaeology Cotswold Archaeology University of Sheffield Students and volunteers 3 NatSCA animal hard tissues, one-day identification workshop, 29th January 2015 at Leeds Discovery Centre. There were 20 participants from across the UK. Lecture featuring VAHT was delivered at ICAZ 2014 to an international audience in San Rafael, Argentina. This is to be published in the conference post-prints. The web resource has also been presented at a number of international meetings including: Sustaining the Impact of UK Science and Heritage Research, 29-30th Oct 2013 (target audience: heritage professionals/ academics/ ministers) ICAZ 2014, San Rafael, Argentina, 22-27th Sept 2014. (target audience - archaeologists, zooarchaeologists, museum curators) GDRE PREHISTOS (Groupement De Recherche Europeen: Exploitation des Matieres Osseuses dans l'Europe Prehistorique) workshop on Bronze Age worked osseous material, funded by CNRS. 'Raw material selection in Early Bronze Age edged weapons in Britain'. Aquicumi Muzeum, Budapest, Nov 2014
Sector Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description HEIF
Amount £180,000 (GBP)
Organisation Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2014 
End 07/2015
 
Description 'Ivories : The real thing? The Ivories from Roman Britain? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 25th October 2018 evening talk with Stephen Greep at the Society of Antiquaries, London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 'Reading the Bones' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Sonia O'Connor delivered a public lecture front I gave a talk that related to the Science and Heritage COWISHT project, entitled 'Reading the Bones', to a 40 strong audience of the Craven Naturalists in Skipton on the 10th February 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description 'Reading the bones - Evidence from Animal Materials' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 12th December 2018, public lecture by Dr O'Connor to the Friends of Craven Museum, Skipton
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 'The Elephant in the Music Room' talk at the Royal Academy of Music 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16th May 2017 Dr O'Connor delivered a talk 'The Elephant in the Music Room' at the Royal Academy of Music as part of their public lecture series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 2 day ID course for the V&A/ Natural History Museum in London on the 17th and 18th April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact workshop with participants from varied heritage/ conservation backgrounds
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Animal Hard Tissue Materials ID Course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Sonia O'Connor taught the Animal Hard Tissue Materials ID Course, 18th - 20th March 2019 to the ICON Archaeology Group/Fitzwilliam Museum, at the Department of Zoology University of Cambridge. There were c 20 to 25 particpants, almost all conservators or other heritage professionals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Animal Hard Tissues ID Course for the ICON Archaeology Group (24th to 67th July 2018 at Oxford University Museum of Natural History) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact ID course with participants from across several heritage/ conservation disciplines incl. ethnography, as well are archaeological conservation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Animal Hard Tissues ID Course for the ICON Archaeology Group - Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge (18-20th March 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 21 participants from across several heritage conservation disciplines, as well as archaeological conservation, and one person from an international wildlife conservation organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Guest lecture - contribution to Scientific Frameworks Module 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact lecture by Dr O'Connor on the topic in the Scientific Frameworks Module at the University of Bradford (8th March 2018)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Guest lecture at University of Bradford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact public guest lecture exploring Curious Travellers, Fossil Finder, PcnH and other activities related to Fragmented Heritage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description ICAZ 2014, San Rafael, Argentina 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lecture featuring VAHT was delivered at ICAZ 2014 to an international audience in San Rafael, Argentina. This is to be published in the conference post-prints. audience - archaeologists, zooarchaeologists, museum curators
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description ICON Ethnographic Group, two-day animal hard tissues identification workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact ICON Ethnographic Group, two-day animal hard tissues identification workshop April 2014 held at OUNHM. The participants were 50/50 conservators and curatorial staff and where

Pitt Rivers Museum
Museum of Reading
Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo
Liverpool Museums
V&A
Birmingham Museums Trust
British Museum
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Natural History Museum
Other participants with a Natural History Collections/Curatorial background
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description IFA Organic Finds CPD Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact IFA Organic Finds CPD Workshop on the Wednesday 28th May 2014. 1/2 day course on the identification of animal hard tissues presented
Participants on the course included:
Wardell Armstrong Archaeology
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
University of Leicester Archaeological Services
Living in the Past community Archaeology Project
Oxford Archaeology
Cotswold Archaeology
University of Sheffield
Students and volunteers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Identification of Animal Hard Tissues CPD course at Manchester Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 2-day Identification of Animal Hard Tissues CPD course at Manchester Museum for ICON Archaeology and Ethnography sections on 12th and 13th December 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Identification of Animal Hard Tissues CPD course at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 2-day Identification of Animal Hard Tissues CPD course on the 28th and 29th March 2017, at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited keynote presentation and Session Chair at Digidoc Conference (Historic Environment Scotland Engine Shed, Stirling) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Major 3 day interdisciplinary workshop intent on exploring digital innovations across heritage sector, media, film and education
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Ivory Identification Course at McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Downing Street, Cambridge (20th to 21st September 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Course free and open to all but places limited to c25 participants. Mostly museum/archaeology based but 2 people from wildlife conservation organisations and 2 private individuals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description NatSCA animal hard tissues, one-day identification workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact NatSCA animal hard tissues, one-day identification workshop, 29th January 2015 at Leeds Discovery Centre. There were 20 participants from across the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Principles of Cultural Materials Radiography course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Sonia O'Connor taught the principles of cultural materials radiography to Marta Zingale, for the Department of Archaeology at the University of Manchester on the 2 and 3rd of March 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Skills and knowledge transfer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Sonia O'Connor has undertaken animal tissues identifications and CITES appraisals through the year for a number of fine art and heritage organisations, including Constantine who deal with loan logistics for museums), Sotheby's and the World Museum, Liverpool. I have also assisted other researchers with identifications, including Roman ivories from Colchester for Dr Steven Greep, and needlework tools and accessories in bone and ivory at the Leeds Discovery Centre and Abbey House Museum, Leeds for Rosemary Payne.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Talk and Stall at UK University Archaeology Day (British Museum) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Open event held at the British Museum
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk to Upper Wharfedale Field Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Reading the Bones' talk by Dr O'Connor to the Upper Wharfedale Field Society in Grassington Town Hall on 12 February 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Unpicking the Morton Cope 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On the 27th February Dr Sonia O'Connor gave a joint lecture with Mary Brooks to the Society of Antiquaries of London (and guests), perhaps 60 - 80 people in total, on the X-radiographic investigation and other work we have been doing on the Morton 'cope' textile, entitled 'Unpicking the Morton 'Cope': Changing historical, liturgical & social significance'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description X-radiography and hyperspectral imaging course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Sonia O'Connor taught X-radiography and hyperspectral imaging to the Textile Conservation and Technical Art History Masters students at the University of Glasgow on the 12th Nov 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019