ONE-MA3 – Day VIII: Sunday Mass, 3D modeling and Compression Testing

June 24th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019, Uncategorized

By Sophia Mittman '22 Happy Sunday! Some of us woke up to Sunday Mass at the medieval cathedral of Sermoneta just a five-minute walk away. It was fascinating to arrive at the church early to receive a tour of the church by art restorer, Marco Nicola. He explained so many things within religious art that I never knew about before! Today also happened to be Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic holy day that is highly revered in southern Italy and was cause to decorate the entire center aisle of the church with pictures created from flowers and other natural materials like beans, rice, leaves, and flour. Later on, in the evening they performed a procession through the streets of Sermoneta in celebration of the holy day. Decorated middle aisle in the Sermoneta cathedral Once back at the castle, in our respective groups, we all were assigned various tasks to complete on the castle grounds, such as using XRF (X-ray fluorescence) on frescoes, thermal cameras on walls, and drones to take pictures for photogrammetry (unfortunately, the drone was never able to connect to the WiFi to complete the task). In our bits of free time, we also had the assignment of choosing our own object somewhere on the castle grounds to 3D model using photogrammetry. Some focused on modeling the water well that’s in the center of the courtyard while others tackled stone pillars, rustic benches, and even restored frescoes. Reconstructing 3D frescoes using photogrammetry Finally, we put our mortars (made [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Happy Sunday! Some of us woke up to Sunday Mass at the medieval cathedral of Sermoneta just a five-minute walk away. It was fascinating to arrive at the church early to receive a tour of the church by art restorer, Marco Nicola. He explained so many things within religious art that I never knew about before! Today also happened to be Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic holy day that is highly revered in southern Italy and was cause to decorate the entire center aisle of the church with pictures created from flowers and other natural materials like beans, rice, leaves, and flour. Later on, in the evening they performed a procession through the streets of Sermoneta in celebration of the holy day.

Decorated middle aisle in the Sermoneta cathedral

Once back at the castle, in our respective groups, we all were assigned various tasks to complete on the castle grounds, such as using XRF (X-ray fluorescence) on frescoes, thermal cameras on walls, and drones to take pictures for photogrammetry (unfortunately, the drone was never able to connect to the WiFi to complete the task). In our bits of free time, we also had the assignment of choosing our own object somewhere on the castle grounds to 3D model using photogrammetry. Some focused on modeling the water well that’s in the center of the courtyard while others tackled stone pillars, rustic benches, and even restored frescoes.

Reconstructing 3D frescoes using photogrammetry

Finally, we put our mortars (made two days ago) to the test, both with respect to sustainability and strength. The first test challenged the sustainability of each mortar, taking into account carbon emissions during its production. The second test was purely Professor Masic seeing how much damage each cylinder of dried mortar could withstand. We all enjoyed this part—especially when we completed the drop test on them by letting them tumble to the cobblestone ground from a high ledge to see which broke into the lowest number of pieces. At the end of the project, we all gained a better understanding of what makes a strong mortar, as well as what one should definitely not use or do when creating a reliable one. Tomorrow we will continue on projects using our new 3D models and may attempt to beat our newly-achieved streak record in volleyball: 84!

Checking out our handmade mortars

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ONE-MA3: Photogrammetry

June 23rd, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Maritza Gallegos '22 Our team of students and restorers was lucky enough to get to work in the beautiful Gardens of Ninfa, a juxtaposition of long abandoned ruins and living plants. It is one of the most charming, magical places I have ever been. Professor Masic tells us there is a careful balance to maintaining the ruins while keeping the plants alive due to the water that is detrimental to the ruins, yet necessary to keep the gardens thriving. This is why restoration work is particularly important here. The Gardens of Ninfa Our main task at the Garden of Ninfa was to photograph believe it or not, this is called photogrammetry. We then will stitch together hundreds of photographs with software to create a 3D model of the castle on the property. Many of these photos are taken by a programmable drone, which flies above the castle along pre-determined paths and then lands manually. Both the programmed path and the manual landing are to ensure the safety of the drone, the ruins, and the creatures around the ruins by minimizing the chance of collision. One of the ruins in the Gardens of Ninfa However, it is also necessary to take photos from the ground level so we will have multiple viewpoints to make the 3D model more accurate. This meant there were teams of us students taking hundreds of pictures on our phones- so many (273 in my case) that I got a low storage warning twice while photographing [...]

By Maritza Gallegos ’22

Our team of students and restorers was lucky enough to get to work in the beautiful Gardens of Ninfa, a juxtaposition of long abandoned ruins and living plants. It is one of the most charming, magical places I have ever been. Professor Masic tells us there is a careful balance to maintaining the ruins while keeping the plants alive due to the water that is detrimental to the ruins, yet necessary to keep the gardens thriving. This is why restoration work is particularly important here.

The Gardens of Ninfa

Our main task at the Garden of Ninfa was to photograph believe it or not, this is called photogrammetry. We then will stitch together hundreds of photographs with software to create a 3D model of the castle on the property. Many of these photos are taken by a programmable drone, which flies above the castle along pre-determined paths and then lands manually. Both the programmed path and the manual landing are to ensure the safety of the drone, the ruins, and the creatures around the ruins by minimizing the chance of collision.

One of the ruins in the Gardens of Ninfa

However, it is also necessary to take photos from the ground level so we will have multiple viewpoints to make the 3D model more accurate. This meant there were teams of us students taking hundreds of pictures on our phones- so many (273 in my case) that I got a low storage warning twice while photographing and deleted some apps. To be usable, the pictures must overlap so that the software we use can piece them together like a puzzle. The more pictures there are, the more detailed the 3D model will be.

An ancient castle

It was very interesting to see the ways in which archaeology utilizes new technologies. Before this trip, I still saw archaeology as a bit “Indiana Jones-ish” or as incredibly tedious excavation work. In practice, archaeology has taken full advantage of the latest technologies, resulting in our team looking more like overly excited tourists than what I had imagined traditional archaeologists looking like. If we managed to get enough pictures for a good model, it may be used to aid in projects to preserve the castle or to make a piece of the Garden of Ninfa accessible to those unable to be physically present. There is even work being done to access the model made with the photogrammetry data from a QR code and to print these QR codes on postcards. But likely the most important part of this work is the preservation of ancient frescoes on the walls of the ruins, which are quickly degrading due to the water necessary to maintain the garden, and the passage of time.

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ONE-MA3: Learning to Appreciate Roman Engineering and Craftsmanship

June 23rd, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Marcin Hajduczek '22 No longer jetlagged and sporting new tans from the Italian sun, we set out to Torre Paola today for our first hands-on fieldwork of the ONE-MA3trip. After a short trip to the coasts of Sabaudia, conservator-restorer Roberto Scalesse led us underground to a recently discovered Roman bathhouse. Although newly constructed arched ceilings protected the excavated site aboveground, everything that had been covered by soil offered glimpses of what it must have looked like over two thousand years ago. Ancient Roman bathhouse  With the consolidation of Rome as an empire in 27 BC, Roman emperors had increasingly available access to treasury resources to fund extravagant projects. While some, like Nero, built ridiculously excessive palaces for themselves, others tried to outcompete one another through the construction of public works that could render them a ‘good emperor’ in the eyes of the people and Senate; often times this was a stepping stone for an emperor’s posthumous deification. This led to the construction of amphitheaters, forums, and lavish public baths; with soaring columns and walls clad in marble, their ornate designs inspired architects like Stanford White, who’s rendition of the Old Penn Station alluded to the coffered ceilings of the Baths of Caracalla. Ancient Roman bathhouse Built in the Republican period where aqueducts and running water were less common, the baths of Torre Paola sported none of the extravagance of Caracalla. They made up for it instead in the practicality of construction materials and decorations. Wherever there was more contact [...]

By Marcin Hajduczek ’22

No longer jetlagged and sporting new tans from the Italian sun, we set out to Torre Paola today for our first hands-on fieldwork of the ONE-MA3trip. After a short trip to the coasts of Sabaudia, conservator-restorer Roberto Scalesse led us underground to a recently discovered Roman bathhouse. Although newly constructed arched ceilings protected the excavated site aboveground, everything that had been covered by soil offered glimpses of what it must have looked like over two thousand years ago.

Ancient Roman bathhouse 

With the consolidation of Rome as an empire in 27 BC, Roman emperors had increasingly available access to treasury resources to fund extravagant projects. While some, like Nero, built ridiculously excessive palaces for themselves, others tried to outcompete one another through the construction of public works that could render them a ‘good emperor’ in the eyes of the people and Senate; often times this was a stepping stone for an emperor’s posthumous deification. This led to the construction of amphitheaters, forums, and lavish public baths; with soaring columns and walls clad in marble, their ornate designs inspired architects like Stanford White, who’s rendition of the Old Penn Station alluded to the coffered ceilings of the Baths of Caracalla.

Ancient Roman bathhouse

Built in the Republican period where aqueducts and running water were less common, the baths of Torre Paola sported none of the extravagance of Caracalla. They made up for it instead in the practicality of construction materials and decorations. Wherever there was more contact between surfaces and water, the Romans used red mortar, which had a higher concentration of crushed brick aggregate in the cement. This made it more durable against the physical erosion of water and the propagation of cracks. In the baths of Torre Paola, the water-filled tubs were lined in the red material, while the floors were more lustrous, Roberto explained, due to pieces of colorful marble added to the red mortar for aesthetic.

The mosaics on the floor of the bathhouse

The floors of other rooms were covered in the remains of tediously hand-crafted mosaics. Some of these had been partially destroyed, presumably by falling debris and leaking water, but others remained as smooth to the touch as their modern counterparts. Roberto’s work revolved around trying to find the best way to clean and restore these mosaics, and our 16 pairs of hands made it easier for him to test multiple methods. While some of us physically scrubbed the tiles with brushes and sponges to remove dirt, others applied a dense algae solution that clung to grime and made it easier to wipe off. We noticed that using the algae was less abrasive than physical cleaning which could potentially damage weaker tiles. Professor Masic and Roberto explained that more stubborn filth could be removed with a laser that could be tuned to a particular wavelength as to chip away at any color other than that of the tesserae. Roberto’s final comment was a pro tip for some of us future archeologists: always leave a thin layer of dirt so that you don’t damage the original artifact.

Amazed at the resilience of the historic bath against the test of time and armed with Roberto’s warning, we left the site with a newfound appreciation for Roman engineering and craftsmanship. Being out in the field then forced us to end the workday with something entirely un-Italian: eating lunch without a dish of pasta!

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ONE-MA3 – Day VII: Creating our own frescoes!

June 23rd, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Sophia Mittman '22 Mixing the mortar for our frescoes Today we woke up to our first rainy day in Italy, although the clouds cleared up by the time we set up tables outside to try our hands at making frescoes! Beforehand, we learned all about the production and use of various types of ancient pigments in a lecture that reminded me of my high school art history class with the addition of science. We learned about pigments, binders, diluents, the history of paintings, layers of a fresco, and even got to handle both natural and artificial pigments ourselves. I was amazed at the wide range of colors that the natural pigments are able to provide and how vibrant all of the colors are! Fresco Pigments turned into paints! After the lecture, we were practically masters of fresco-making (haha not really, but still it was fun to pretend to be Michaelangelo). Each of us painted our own fresco using the ground-up pigments and a small wooden frame filled and smoothed perfectly to the brim with mortar. As for me, I lost track of time from 10 am until 8:15 pm (with one water break and lunch break in between) working on mine, a fresco of Delicate Arch from Arches National Park in Utah. It was a gorgeous day to be painting a fresco in Italy, and the longer I sat working on it, the more and more I became amazed at the talent and patience that artists must have had [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Mixing the mortar for our frescoes

Today we woke up to our first rainy day in Italy, although the clouds cleared up by the time we set up tables outside to try our hands at making frescoes! Beforehand, we learned all about the production and use of various types of ancient pigments in a lecture that reminded me of my high school art history class with the addition of science. We learned about pigments, binders, diluents, the history of paintings, layers of a fresco, and even got to handle both natural and artificial pigments ourselves. I was amazed at the wide range of colors that the natural pigments are able to provide and how vibrant all of the colors are!

Fresco Pigments turned into paints!

After the lecture, we were practically masters of fresco-making (haha not really, but still it was fun to pretend to be Michaelangelo). Each of us painted our own fresco using the ground-up pigments and a small wooden frame filled and smoothed perfectly to the brim with mortar. As for me, I lost track of time from 10 am until 8:15 pm (with one water break and lunch break in between) working on mine, a fresco of Delicate Arch from Arches National Park in Utah. It was a gorgeous day to be painting a fresco in Italy, and the longer I sat working on it, the more and more I became amazed at the talent and patience that artists must have had back in the Renaissance. Soon we’ll be visiting the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel to see some of those frescoes for ourselves!

 

Fresco of Delicate Arch

To end the day, we made one huge gelato outing with over twenty people and practiced some basic Italian vocabulary and phrases. Last night, we learned our basic numbers in Italian while playing a volleyball game, but tonight, we had an official lesson by one of our TAs, Janille Maragh, in the treasured WiFi room (one of the only spots in the castle with WiFi). Now, all we need is more practice and we’ll be fluent in Italian in no time! …okay, maybe not in the two weeks we have left, but at least we’ll know enough to most importantly, be able to order gelato!

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ONE-MA3 – Creating Strong and Sustainable Mortars

June 22nd, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Naomi Lutz '22 This morning we had the opportunity to learn about the process of making Roman mortars and the different materials used in them. Then we put our knowledge to the test and made our own mortars! We broke into four groups to come up with our own recipes, and compete to make the strongest, most sustainable mortar. Professor Masic teaching us about the production of Roman concrete             In thinking about what ingredients to use for our mortar, we compared reactivities, carbon footprints, and strengths of the different materials. A higher reactivity means a stronger mortar, as more chemical bonds must then be broken in order to break the mortar. Unfortunately, some materials with higher reactivities must be heated up to be used, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Metacaolino has a reactivity of 98% but must be heated to 600-800 degrees. In choosing to include Metacaolino in our mortar, my group thus sacrificed part of our mortar’s sustainability in return for strength and sturdiness. Sturdiness allows infrastructure to last longer and requires less maintenance, making the mortar more sustainable at the same time. Pozzolana, or volcanic ash, on the other hand has a reactivity of 70% and doesn’t need to be heated. Due to these promising characteristics, we chose to use a lot of pozzolana in our recipe. Pozzolana can be found in many parts of Italy, so we mostly used the one from the closest city Tivoli in order to limit the number of miles it [...]

By Naomi Lutz ’22

This morning we had the opportunity to learn about the process of making Roman mortars and the different materials used in them. Then we put our knowledge to the test and made our own mortars! We broke into four groups to come up with our own recipes, and compete to make the strongest, most sustainable mortar.

Professor Masic teaching us about the production of Roman concrete

            In thinking about what ingredients to use for our mortar, we compared reactivities, carbon footprints, and strengths of the different materials. A higher reactivity means a stronger mortar, as more chemical bonds must then be broken in order to break the mortar. Unfortunately, some materials with higher reactivities must be heated up to be used, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Metacaolino has a reactivity of 98% but must be heated to 600-800 degrees. In choosing to include Metacaolino in our mortar, my group thus sacrificed part of our mortar’s sustainability in return for strength and sturdiness. Sturdiness allows infrastructure to last longer and requires less maintenance, making the mortar more sustainable at the same time. Pozzolana, or volcanic ash, on the other hand has a reactivity of 70% and doesn’t need to be heated. Due to these promising characteristics, we chose to use a lot of pozzolana in our recipe. Pozzolana can be found in many parts of Italy, so we mostly used the one from the closest city Tivoli in order to limit the number of miles it was transported, and thus the carbon footprint. It is also purple, giving our mortar a colorful tint. When choosing whether to use pomice or sand, we noted first that pomice is light and has a reactivity of 20%, while sand is heavy and is inert. However, sand is strong and found everywhere and is thus very sustainable. After getting more advice from our TA Janille Maragh, we decided to prioritize using sand in our mortar.

Materials for making mortar

After finally deciding on our recipe, we mixed our ingredients together in a bucket. We then added lime and water while mixing the solution. When we reached a good consistency, we scraped the mortar into plastic cups and shook them in order to reduce the amount air bubbles so that more reactions could occur and therefore increase the strength of our mortar. In a few days, after our sample hardens, Admir and the TAs will judge which mortar is both the strongest and the most sustainable. We can’t wait to see which one wins!

A sample of mortar created from various material 

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ONE-MA3 – Characterizing Frescoes in the Gardens of Ninfa

June 22nd, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Naomi Lutz '22 Today we visited the beautiful Gardens of Ninfa in Latina, Italy, which contains the ruins of the medieval town Ninfa. We had the chance to use some cool technology such as thermal imaging cameras, drones, and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Using XRF to analyze two frescoes in different parts of the garden was by far the coolest part, in my opinion. XRF analyzers measure the fluorescent X-ray emitted from a sample when it has been excited by high-energy X-rays or gamma rays. Two girls in the class and Admir were in charge of operating the analyzer, as they had all completed XRF safety training back at MIT. Other people took pictures of the frescoes to ensure we knew where in the garden the XRF data came from. The analyzer determined the elements present and their relative abundance, and the remaining students and I took notes on these abundances. Professor Masic explaining the potential elements in the fresco Looking at the different color pigments, we predicted which elements were used to make the frescoes. We suspected that reason for the colors red, green, and yellow was iron oxide. That is, the red pigment is Red Earth purified, the yellow pigment is yellow Earth purified, and the green pigment is green Earth purified, as Admir put it. Another possibility for the red color was cinnabar, or mercury sulfate. The XRF reading revealed that no mercury was found in the region, while iron was found, so we concluded that the region was [...]

By Naomi Lutz ’22

Today we visited the beautiful Gardens of Ninfa in Latina, Italy, which contains the ruins of the medieval town Ninfa. We had the chance to use some cool technology such as thermal imaging cameras, drones, and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Using XRF to analyze two frescoes in different parts of the garden was by far the coolest part, in my opinion. XRF analyzers measure the fluorescent X-ray emitted from a sample when it has been excited by high-energy X-rays or gamma rays. Two girls in the class and Admir were in charge of operating the analyzer, as they had all completed XRF safety training back at MIT. Other people took pictures of the frescoes to ensure we knew where in the garden the XRF data came from. The analyzer determined the elements present and their relative abundance, and the remaining students and I took notes on these abundances.

Professor Masic explaining the potential elements in the fresco

Looking at the different color pigments, we predicted which elements were used to make the frescoes. We suspected that reason for the colors red, green, and yellow was iron oxide. That is, the red pigment is Red Earth purified, the yellow pigment is yellow Earth purified, and the green pigment is green Earth purified, as Admir put it. Another possibility for the red color was cinnabar, or mercury sulfate. The XRF reading revealed that no mercury was found in the region, while iron was found, so we concluded that the region was red due to iron oxide. Iron was also found in the yellow and green pigments, so the red, green, and yellow pigments were made from iron oxide. No materials were imported for the frescoes. Cheaper materials were often used for frescoes in medieval times, as less money was available for the creation of art than during the Renaissance. The iron detected by the XRF indicated that the frescoes were inexpensive to produce.

Taking measurements using the XRF

The XRF detected sulfur in both frescoes. Admir explained to us that sulfur indicates degradation in frescoes, as it is found in gypsum. Secondary gypsum originating from the burning of fossil fuels likely caused the build-up of sulfur in the frescoes we studied. Within each color pigment in the first fresco, the relative abundance of sulfur was 19% or more. In the second fresco, each pigment had 0.4% or less of sulfur. The first fresco looked much more degraded than the second one. One possible reason for the greater degradation of the first fresco is that cement, which degrades fresco, had been added to the wall surrounding the first fresco.

Reading the data that the XRF collected 

In order to determine the authenticity of each fresco, we used XRF on a white area in order to determine the elements found in the white pigment. Due to the degradation and the large presence of sulfur, we expected the frescoes to be ancient, but analyzing the white pigments allowed us to confirm this prediction. Titanium white was discovered in 1919 and is used for basically all white applications now, so if the XRF revealed the presence of this pigment, we would know that the fresco was recently painted. In the first fresco, we found a calcium abundance of 29.36%, telling us that the fresco is based on calcium and is truly ancient. We made the same conclusion based on the XRF reading of the second fresco. XRF allowed us to learn a lot about the frescoes in the Garden of Ninfa, and we had fun using the technology for the first time!

 

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