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Posted by Daniel Pett on

Crowd-sourcing and Crowd-funding our Human Past

The MicroPasts end of first phase funding conference will be held at the Royal Geographical Society on the 31st March 2015. We look forward to welcoming you and tickets can be purchased online or via contacting us directly. The conference programme has now been finalised and features some very interesting speakers as shown below. Lunch is provided in the ticket price and there will be some free things to take away (apart from the knowledge shared) and we hope to film the speakers. Many of the speakers are on Twitter (linked to their names below) and there maybe a lively back channel to accompany the event, which will be archived.

09.30-09.45 Welcome (Andrew Bevan, UCL)

09.45-10.30 Crowd-fuelled archaeology and history online: an introduction to MicroPasts (Chiara Bonacchi and Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, UCL)

10.30-10.55 Curatorial practice and the crowd-sourcing of museum archives and objects (Daniel Pett, Jennifer Wexler and Neil Wilkin, British Museum)

10.55-11.20 PyBossa: Helping citizens and scientists to collaborate (Daniel Lombraña González, PyBossa)

11.20-11.35 Coffee break (provided)

11.35-12.00 Crowdsourcing archaeological data through the Heritage Together project (Helen Miles, Aberystwyth University; Katharina Moeller and Andrew Wilson (Bangor University)

12.00-12.25 From curated space to personal space: crowdsourcing and the museum experience (Stuart Dunn, KCL)

12.25-12.50 Experiences from the Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center (Meghan Ferriter, Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center)

12.50-13.15 If you build it, will they come? (Maiya Pina-Dacier, DigVentures)

13.15-14.15 Lunch (provided)

14.15-14.30 The Ur Project. Reunification and integration (Birger Helgestad, British Museum)

14.30-14.45 Worthington G. Smith: his haunts and relics (Claire Harris, British Museum)

14.45-15.00 Reviewing MicroPasts (Lisa Cardy, MicroPasts)

15.00-15.15 Reviewing MicroPasts (Hugh Fiske, MicroPasts)

15.15-15.30 Break

15.30-15.45 3D Scans in the Wild (Thomas Flynn, multimedia designer)

15.45-16.00 Process and experimentation in making 3D prints of museum objects (Stefano Pratesi, ThinkSee3D)

16.00-16.15 Do Touch! Archaeology and 3D printing in the Classroom (Jordan Hassell and Oliver Hutchinson, UCL)

16.15-16.30 3D models and digital futures at the British Museum (Suzy Hogg, British Museum)

16.30-17.00 Discussion

17:00 Adjourn to a pub for further conversation







Posted by Adi on

The British Museum Index

The index of the British Museum was a major archaeological initiative first founded in 1913 and then moved to the British Museum in the 1920s. For over 70 years, it represented the highest standards of Bronze Age artefact studies. This catalogue contains index cards detailing object find spots and types, alongside detail line drawings and a wide range of further information about the object’s context of discovery.

BM Card Index

Drawers of index cards at the British Museum

Part of the reason to transcribe the index is so that its estimated 30,000 records can be incorporated rapidly into the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, which has also been created with the help of people across England and Wales. The PAS database includes nearly 930,000 objects, which have been collected by the public, usually by metal detectorists. Integrating the transcribed cards with the numerous records of archaeological objects discovered by the public will thereby create a near complete digital inventory of metal finds from Bronze Age Britain. There are also some records of finds from outside of Britain in the index and in some cases, these can be sent to other national databases in Europe as well.

Georeferencing the finds will support the kinds of large-scale spatial analysis discussed here. Knowing as much information as possible about the archaeological context of these finds (e.g. as recorded on the cards) is very useful for building up a clearer picture of how metal objects were produced, exchanged, used and discarded in the Bronze Age.


Posted by Jennifer Wexler on

3D Modelling of the Arreton Down Hoard

We are in the process of adding a new photo-masking application to the MicroPasts site. This is going to be a bit of a ‘pop-up shop’ as it will only include one Bronze Age British hoard, although it is one of considerable importance.

A hoard is an archaeological terms for two or more objects, normally of metal, deposited together. In some cases these were buried with the intention of recovery, but in other cases they were intended as ‘gifts to the gods’ or suitably auspicious ways of casting off old fashioned or damaged objects.

This particular hoard was found on Arreton Down on the Isle of Wight sometime before 1735, and we think that it was associated with a series of aligned pits. It constitutes a major group of Early Bronze Age spearheads and axes (as well as at least one dagger) that was probably placed in the ground around 1700-1500 BC.

Antiquarian drawing of the Arreton Down Hoard, from the The Antiquaries Journal XXVII (1947)

Antiquarian drawing of the Arreton Down Hoard, from the The Antiquaries Journal XXVII (1947)

The Arreton Down hoard represents the final metalwork traditions of Early Bronze Age (EBA) in southern England, c. 1700-1500 BC (Britton 1963, 284-97; Burgess & Cowen 1972; Needham 1986). The hoard gave its name to the ‘Arreton phase’ of Early Bronze Age metalwork. This arguably represents the first large scale and frequent burying of metalwork in prehistory, a practice that would continue for many centuries (and millennia) to come.

Arreton Decorated Socket Spearhead

Decorated socketed spearhead description in the BA Index

The Arreton phase gained its important position in the EBA chronology partially due to its early discovery in 1735, and its extensive documentation and exhibition by the Society of Antiquaries of London, the foremost archaeological body of its day (Society of Antiquaries Minutes 1732-7,128-9; Cooke 1737). Arreton Down belongs to a sub-set of hoards which are dominated by spearheads and have been assigned to a particular sub-phase of the Bronze Age (MA VI), and it has one of the best ranges of bronze equipment known from a single EBA context. This rare combination of metalwork types in combination with what appears to be purposeful deposition in a series of aligned pits suggests that the hoard was deposited in the course of ritual practices.

The Arreton hoard includes 16 objects of which 13 are currently in the BM collections: 2 tanged spearheads with rivet, 6 tanged spearheads, 1 tanged and collared spearhead with rivet, 1 socketed spearhead, 1 halberd or dagger, 1 dagger, and 4 flanged axes (illustrated below).

Photograph of the Arreton Down Hoard, as it currently exists in the BM collections © Trustees of the British Museum

Photograph of the Arreton Down Hoard, as it currently exists in the BM collections © Trustees of the British Museum

The fun thing about this assemblage from a specialist point of view is how it shows the evolution from low-flanged axes (Arreton-flanged axes) in the Early Bronze Age towards something closer to the earliest palstaves (a type of axe with cast flanges and a stop-ridge that is currently also the subject of much work by contributors on the MicroPasts site; see http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/app/category/featured/ (Roberts 2008, 75).  Unfortunately, for a long time the provenance of the hoard was subject to great confusion, with some of the bronze finds actually given false provenances to other parts of the UK! Fortunately, research by Stuart Needham, a former British Museum curator of Bronze Age Collections, allowed for the original provenance to be re-established for all but three of the Arreton finds (Needham 1986). Subsequent, responsibly-reported metal detecting in the Arreton area have led to the discovery of additional bronze implements, adding to our understanding of this region in the Bronze Age.

Adi, Chiara, & Andy preparing a decorated socketed spearhead from the hoard for 3D scanning

Adi, Chiara, & Andy preparing a decorated socketed spearhead from the hoard for 3D scanning

This will be the first complete hoard photographed for 3D modelling and a major challenge will be how well this modelling approach handles the thin edges of the spearheads and internal socket of the dagger. Last week we took hundreds of photos of these objects in the hoard at the BM’s store, including both in very controlled photo-capture conditions and the more ad hoc set-up you see in the image above!

Close-up of the spearhead

Close-up of the spearhead

Soon these files will be uploaded as a new MicroPast’s photomasking application, allowing us to create for the first time a full set of 3D models of a Bronze Age hoard! Later this year, we hope to use these photomasked models to potentially make 3D printable models of the hoard on a 3D printer at one of the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre’s (http://www.britishmuseum.org/learning/samsung_centre.aspx) sessions at the BM.


  • Britton, D. 1963. “Traditions of Metal-Working in the Later Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Britain, Part I”. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society XXIX: 258-325.
  • Burgess, C.B. and Cowen, J.D. 1972. “The Ebnal hoard and Early Bronze Age Metalworking Traditions”. In F. Lynch and C.B. Burgess (eds) Prehistoric Man in Wales and the West: Essays in Honour of Lily F. Chitty, 167-88. Bath.
  • Cooke, B. 1737. “Letter to Peter Collinson”, dated 1 Jan 1736/7, Society of Antiquaries Minutes, Vol. II: 285.
  • Needham, Stuart P. 1986. “Towards the Reconstitution of the Arreton Hoard: A Case of Faked Provenances”. The Antiquaries Journal LXVI: 9-28.
  • Piggott, S. 1947. “The Arreton Down Bronze Age Hoard”, The Antiquaries Journal 27: 177-8.
  • Roberts, B.W. 2008. “The Bronze Age”. In L. Atkins, R. Atkins and V. Leitch (eds) The Handbook of British Archaeology, 63-93. London: Constable and Robinson.