The BARC (Biological Anthropology Research Centre) at the University of Bradford cares for one of the largest archaeological human skeletal collections in a UK university. This allows our staff and students to study evidence for a demography and s diverse range of disease and/or trauma in past populations. We regularly welcome colleagues from the UK and around the world who visit us to examine the collections and consult with SAFS staff.
A few days ago we had a visit from Dr Hannah O’Regan from the University of Nottingham who brought an intriguing skeleton of a male individual from a Romano-British site to discuss with Dr Jo Buckberry.
Jo and Hannah’s conclusion was the individual had Perthes disease (sometimes called Legg-Calve-Perthes). This is a childhood condition where the head of the femur (hip joint/thigh bone) doesn’t get enough blood supply during growth and the hip joint doesn’t form properly, often resulting in a shortened leg and poor function of the hip. From examining the rest of the skeleton they knew this man was an adult when he died and his skeleton exhibited several changes that gave evidence to how he must have coped throughout his adult life with this impairment.
On the day Hannah visited, Dr Andy Holland was training Caitlin Thurley, a masters student on our Human Osteology and Palaeopathology course, to use one of our 3D structured light scanners. Caitlin will be using structured light scanning techniques during her masters research project to study approaches to the 3D visualisation of the shape of human skulls.
The Visualising Heritage researchers from SAFS undertake research in 3D scanning and visualisation on some wonderful items of archaeological heritage. One area of strength is in the 3D visualisation of skeletal remains, especially following our work on the Digitised Diseases. Digitised Diseases is an open access resource featuring 3D models of human bones which have been digitised using 3D laser scanning, CT and radiography. Whilst the digital models cover a wide range of pathologies, there are gaps due to the nature of remains recovered from the archaeological record. We are always interested in being able to digitise examples of rarer pathological conditions, especially where examples were unavailable during the first phase of the project. One such gap was an example of a femur exhibiting evidence of Perthes. Hannah was happy for us to use the 3D structured light scanner to digitise the femur of this individual to fill the gap in the Digitised Diseases database.
An hour of structured light scanning later and we had an impressive 3D model of the proximal third of the femur which exhibited changes associated with Perthes disease. Look out for it soon on the Digitised Diseases website.
Fig 1: Screengrab of 3D model of the femur with evidence of Perthes disease
As part of the Field Recording Methods module, our Year 1 undergraduate students have been learning about photogrammetry and how it can complement traditional surveying techniques. With Tom Sparrow, the UG students went on a field trip to Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford. This is a wonderful historic cemetery in the suburbs of Bradford. It contains a wide variety of monument types in terms of shape, size, materials, etc., which means there are a variety of problems associated with recording them and thus makes it an ideal testing ground for different surveying and imaging methods.
In recent weeks, the UG students have been learning about the theory behind photogrammetry as a tool for archaeologists. This fieldtrip gave them the opportunity to put these ideas into practice. The students were advised on the best ways of photographically recording upstanding monuments, and then had the opportunity to try out different types of digital cameras from the SAFS Visualising Heritage resource to record an area of the cemetery.
Once back in university, the students where shown how to use various photogrammetry software packages for processing the photos to turn them into digital 3D models. We were really pleased to see how well our students took to this technique of archaeological surveying and we are looking forward to more 3D models from them in the future.
Figure 3: A 3D model of a section of Undercliffe Cemetery (please click on image)
Dr Chris Gaffney & Tom Sparrow – School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences
For much of the last century Bradford had two professional football teams. With time one club prospered while the other, Bradford Park Avenue, reduced in popularity and eventually its ground was abandoned. Decline in popularity hardly sounds like a cause for celebration, but by using an innovative archaeological and artist narrative a book has been published that has bucked the trend in publishing of sports books.
The William Hill Sports Book of the Year award is eagerly awaited by many in the book publishing world. It may not have the status, or the cash value, of the Man Booker although the organisers say that it is the richest and most prestigious sports writing prize in the world. The benefit for the winner, apart from the glory, is that the 4 weeks between the announcement and Christmas is a welcome bonus window for sales.
Of the 28 previous winners, the subject matter has been distributed between 11 sports. Last year’s victor was a treatise on the early surfing scene as lived and reported by Bill Finnegan. Three of the sports that have featured frequently – cricket, boxing and football – have all provided heavyweights in the pantheon of sports writing. The other commonly featured sport is cycling, and the subject matter illustrates the breadth of the award; the cycling books mirror the popularity of a fashionable sport and cheating, both sure winners by any measure.
The 2017 shortlist has some classic offerings from the top represented sports; biographies of Muhammad Ali, Bob Paisley and Tom Simpson. Among the other books we see the spectrum of great sports writing; the extraordinary life of Béla Guttmann, the ‘swimming suffragettes’ and the never-say-die sporting life of the jockey Declan Murphy.
Our very own Dr Chris Gaffney is on his way to London to attend the William Hill Sport Book of the Year ceremony. A couple of years ago Chris and Tom Sparrow trained some students in geophysical techniques on the former Bradford Park Avenue ground (together with assistance from Stuart Fox, Mary Saunders and Alex Corkum). Bradford Park Avenue was a club that epitomises so much of English football. They played at the top level during the hey-day of football but by 1974 their decline was terminal. Their fine ground was only saved as it had a covenant which stipulated that sports had to be played there. The interpretation of that clause is a bit vague, but half the ground is still there. The University of Bradford team mapped the pitch and laser scanned some of the terraces at the Kop end. The work was done with Neville Gabie, Alan Ward and Jason Wood who had Arts Council funding to work with the community to record the ground in some way. They produced an edited book, Breaking Ground: Art, Archaeology and Mythology, which includes a piece about the UoB team’s work. It’s a lovely volume which was crowd funded and only 500 were produced. Somehow it got noticed by those who judge books…long-list and then short-list of the William Hill Sport Book of the Year.
The announcement of the winner will be later today. Good luck and fingers crossed for Breaking Ground: Art, Archaeology and Mythology.
The book has been discussed in an article by The Guardian newspaper. You can find out more details of the William Hill Sport Book of the Year here.