My 2019 Fieldwork Contribution: Reagan Rohl

My name is Reagan, I’m a freshman at Calvin College, and my favourite drink is Twinnings Earl Grey Tea, two sugars and a dash of milk. I’m currently working at the Umm el-Jimal site doing two projects: an archaeological trench in anticipation of new pipeline construction for the water project, and also 360° photography.

The purpose of my trench was to find anything interesting that may halt the new pipeline’s construction. Luckily, nothing interesting needed any further excavation. Awda, my Jordanian coworker, and I had excavated three new courses of the surviving wall that was connected to the Roman Commodus Gate, then further to a layer of rubble foundation. Trench FF09 was then taken over by a student from Lehigh University, Olivia, so that I could focus on the 360° photography work. The trench was almost done, so she and Awda had finished it all off after two days and have gone on now to work on more interesting trenches.

For me, the much more interesting work is 360° Photography. This field season, I am testing the waters of 360° photography at an archaeological site. The aim: see what limitations we have with a cheap 360° kit, how much it can help with Photogrammetry (creating 3D models from photographs), what do we need for future field seasons, and to create a new 360° tour.

So far, we are well aware that our tripod and monopod are hugely inadequate for firmly supporting the camera. Our current tri/mono-pop duo is super sleek, thin and small to minimize their appearance in photos. However, their performance is rather shoddy amidst the ancient, uneven ruins of Umm el-Jimal. They, along with my probably sub-par placement of the camera, have led to many falls, crashes, and scratches. We would also like to have a larger mobile connection range to the camera so that we could remotely trigger the picture taking, without being in the photo. My current setup is to stand five feet away, facing the nearest wall or stack of stones, set the camera to the largest timer (sadly only 10 seconds), and then sprint in the hope I make it out of the photo and can hide away in time. Clearly, this isn’t an appropriate way to achieve any of the future goals we might have but is great at physically draining the photographer. Not everywhere is like this obviously, but any portion like this when being photographed for Photogrammetry accentuates the problem as photos with much overlap are needed; the trip is made many times.

The muse for testing Photogrammetry in the field is the Numerianos Church placed just outside of the Interpretive & Hospitality Centre courtyard. So far, the results have been fantastic. The capture range of 360° cameras makes overlap easier for Agisoft Metashape Pro (industry-leading Photogrammetry application) to recognize and requires fewer photos. It’s been really fascinating to see the results of just a few photos. Here is the Apse in the Numerianos Church made by Metashape with 32 photos.

Photos were chosen on the basis of whether or not they showed a substantial amount of within and around the Apse. Stones outside of the Apse are stretched and manipulated because of this.

No Texture was created for this mesh.

The 360° tour photographs are currently underway. It follows the walking path and signs and takes short excursions into buildings of interest, such as the Cathedral or Praetorium. There is currently a 360° tour already online here on the website however it just jumps from one space to the other and lacks a sense of transition from one place to another that you find with 360 tours or maps like Google Streetview where you can see where you will be “standing” next. Part of my work here is to try and remedy this with a new tour, that will also include the brand new Interpretive & Hospitality Centre. Once the photographs are done I will most likely continue with the Numerianos Church, or possibly help people finish their trenches.

It’s been an incredible experience to work here in Jordan at Umm el-Jimal, I feel very privileged and am immensely grateful for being part of a project that is so welcomed by the local community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *