For the second lecture of 2015 London Roman Art Seminar, Anna Serotta, conservator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and fellow of the American Academy at Rome, gave a talk on the use of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) in archaeology and conservation, and specifically in relation to her on-going project on Ancient Egyptian stone-working techniques and tool marks. RTI is a relatively new method of digital imaging which captures and documents an object’s surface from numerous angles using raking light. These highly accurate visual representations enable archaeologists and conservators to observe and record various details on an object’s surface and retrieve information about their material and methods of manufacture.
For the case of Ancient Egyptian sculpture, Anna Serotta is using RTI photography in an attempt to answer questions about the tools and carving methods used by the Egyptians. The application of RTI imaging on various sculptures from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has given significant results about the depth, the profile, and the directionality of the carving. After analysis of these data with the use of the respective RTI software, Anna Serotta has tried to understand and reconstruct the tools that would be used to make such marks. In order to determine the possible material and form of the tools she has also undertaken various replication experiments, attempting to reproduce a wide variety of the tool marks on both hard and soft stone. This has included the recreation of copper tools, thought to have been used in Egypt. For one of her recent articles, see:
RTI photography has been used for other archaeological projects regarding ancient sculpture, such as the ‘Hoa Hakananai’a statue’ of Easter Island from the British Museum held by the University of Southampton. Here are some useful links to this work:
For other work on and information related to RTI, follow these links:
News item added by Katerina Velentza (King's College London)