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2. Utilisation de modèles numériques tridimentionnels

Digital and Cultural Study of Terracotta Figurines in the Museo Egizio, Turin. The Project SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections)

 Étude digitale et culturelle des figurines en terre cuite au Museo Egizio, Turin. Le projet SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections)
Clementina Caputo et Alessandro Mandelli
p. 79-85

Résumés

Objets de production en série à faible coût, les figurines en terre cuite et leurs moules peuvent fournir des informations sur les cultes populaires et les contextes et pratiques socio-culturels-religieux. Le projet SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections). A Digital and Cultural Study on Terracotta Figurines and their Lost Molds financé par le Politecnico di Milano naît avec l’intention de combiner les différentes approches analytiques utilisées jusqu’à présent dans l’étude des figurines en terre cuite aux méthodologies digitales innovantes, ici appliquées pour la première fois d’une manière systématique au corpus de figurines en terre cuite de l’Égypte ancienne conservées dans la collection du Museo Egizio, Turin. L’objectif est de servir de modèle pour les développements scientifiques et théoriques futurs dans les études coroplastiques et de susciter un regain d’attention académique dans ce domaine.

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Introduction

  • 1 The description of the project and final remarks of this article are authored by C. Capu (...)
  • 2 Uhlenbrock, 1993, p. 7-27; Frankfurter, 2014, p. 129-141; Frankfurter, 2018; Ballet, 202 (...)

1The study of material culture has traditionally been centred on monumental remains or ‘major arts’, such as sculpture, frescos and architecture. All this kind of evidence provides substantial information about temple worship and the perspectives of those who could afford to commission such elaborate artworks, but far less about household cult and life, that is, on non-elite practices. In contrast, terracotta figurines, being widely accessible artefacts, represent a valuable counterpart to more monumental items and can be useful to round out the picture of ancient cults.1 The production of terracotta figurines as an art form is germane to a number of ancient civilizations, and it carries, also, a certain social value, as can be seen from its place in creation myths. Even though they are relatively humble objects, terracotta figurines have been preserved in a better state than other more precious materials; they expose a rich and varied scenario that reveals much about beliefs, religion, the representation of divinities, and even social ideologies. However, even though the many historical interpretations and their high statistical presence suggest that their production represented a major activity during antiquity,2 they have been often qualified as a ‘minor’ production, due to the use of a poor material and the mass-production system that characterized them. Hence, their study can play a fundamental role in our understanding of bygone civilizations, especially of the non-elite part of the population. Due to their nature and purpose, it is important to understand that in the study of ancient terracotta figurines, the rewards are greatest when examining the broadest possible spectrum of production, rather than focusing on one individual figurine.

  • 3 This is not the case of the Museo Egizio in Turin, which allows visitors and s (...)
  • 4 Schürmann, 1989; Kaufmann, 1915; Perdrizet, 1921; Breccia, 1934; Graindor, 193 (...)
  • 5 Bayer-Niemeier, 1988; Fischer, 1994; Ballet, 1995, p. 259-264; Török, 1995; Bailey, 2008 (...)
  • 6 Allen, 1985; Szymańska, 2005; Caputo, 2012, p. 363-375; Bennett et al., 2016; PoŁudniki (...)
  • 7 For an overview of developments in methods of digital imaging applied to artefacts and t (...)

2Undoubtedly, museum collections are one of the main sources to study these artefacts. Usually, only a few of them are displayed, selected among the others for iconographic and aesthetic reasons or known provenance, but it is not difficult to imagine that an unspecified number of specimens remains unpublished and unknown to both specialists and visitors.3 This is certainly understandable if we consider that these objects are produced in copious numbers, mostly in series, and not always entirely preserved. Even when they are worth publication, they have always been treated as objects of art and not as objects related to everyday life, so they have been rather selected on the basis of their entirety and described only from an iconographic and artistic point of view. However, since the end of the last century, traditional catalogues of collections,4 characterized by a purely descriptive, iconographic and historical-artistic approach, are starting to be replaced by an increasing number of advanced studies on terracotta figurines showing a growing interest in the characteristics of the material, and in production techniques and socio-cultural aspects.5 This is possible also thanks to a growing interest in reconstructing the material culture of ancient societies and to the closer comparison with similar artefacts coming from documented contexts resulting from modern archaeological excavations, based on scientific and systematic methodology.6 Furthermore, in the last ten years, 3D technologies spread significantly in archaeology, with multiple applications, both on the field and in the lab.7 3D modelling is becoming an essential tool and is transforming this field. So far, the analysis of artefacts has relied on direct physical access to objects, 2D representations (photographs and drawings), and written descriptions. The growing popularity of 3D technology has made it clear that a 3D model of an artefact provides a superior record, compared to its 2D counterpart, and an experience closer to the original. High-fidelity 3D digital models of artefacts can bridge the gap in the quality of the data available to researchers and they can also be shared widely, which facilitates and encourages scholarly collaboration. Indeed, the application of digital techniques and virtual 3D rendering in a more systematic way to different clusters of materials will facilitate the knowledge of and the access to surveyed terracotta figurines, even those preserved in ‘minor’ collections, in order to implement the comparative study of this category of objects.

  • 8 The Project SUR.VI.V.E., conducted under the supervision of Corinna Rossi (DABC-Politecn (...)

3The Project SUR.VI.V.E. at the Politecnico di Milano8 was created with the intent of combining the analytical approaches used so far in the study of the terracotta figurines with the innovative digital methodologies, here applied for the first time in a systematic way to the corpus of ancient Egyptian terracotta figurines preserved in the collection of the Museo Egizio in Turin. The goal is to explore the possible applications of 3D models to a specific category of artefacts, Egyptian terracotta figurines, to implement a novel methodology for exploiting the digital to understand their material realm and to serve as a model for future scientific and theoretical developments in coroplastic studies, triggering a renewed academic attention in this field.

1. Studying Egyptian Terracotta Figurines: The Challenge

  • 9 On the techniques applied to the partially molded pottery figure vases of the (...)
  • 10 See Barrett, 2011, p. 91 and fn. 277-278, and p. 99, fn. 307, with further references. S (...)

4Egyptian craftsmen used molds to produce terracotta figurines since as early as the New Kingdom.9 However, some technological practices, such as the use of multiple molds to cast hollow clay figurines, were first developed in the Greek world before reaching Egypt.10 Hence, from the Roman period onwards, the manufacturing process of terracotta figurines draws heavily on the advancements of Greek coroplasts, through the adaptation of new manufacturing techniques to the service of religious concepts that often remained largely traditional. There are lots of terracotta statuettes preserved today in museum collections all around the world.

  • 11 The lack of texts about the structure of the workshops producing terracotta figurines ma (...)

5In general, the study of terracotta figurines puts the researcher before specific problems that require the adoption of a different perspective and approach compared to other forms of ancient sculptures, along with a full awareness of their intrinsic characteristics, which surpasses geographical and chronological borders. Through their study one can attempt to identify the role of the coroplasts who produced these artefacts, turning the attention not only on their individual role as artisans but also on their integration in a wider social sphere as artists. This means to consider how the manual skills and knowledge were handed down from generation to generation, what was the weight of the social context in which these objects were created and the impact of external influences on the local ones, and how important the preferences of the clients or buyers in the diffusion and trade of mass-produced terracotta figurines were, compared to qualitatively more refined pieces, that can be defined as unique. Therefore, a better understanding of terracotta statuettes can provide insights into aspects of the life and role of the people who produced and used them (the identification of individual terracotta workshops, or even the identity of individual coroplasts), that are little known or that have not yet been investigated in the vast and varied Egyptian context. Indeed, the workshop was an essential part of the social world. It was part of the culture and the world of desires in which the figurines played an essential role, perpetuating customs and cultivating creative thoughts about its material expression.11 The craftsman becomes the interpreter and revitalizer of the tradition. For this reason, we should not underestimate the importance of the design and craftsmanship of the figurines, which mirrors a familiarity with the various ritual gestures and places in which the figurines were produced, used and marketed.

  • 12 Ballet, 1997, p. 207-213.

6A terracotta figurine retains social dynamics that contributed to its production. The terracotta modeler, or koroplastes (a term used in ancient Greece to indicate a modeler of images made in clay), worked directly on the plastic medium of the clay, leaving behind revealing indications about the origin of motifs, techniques and dates in the form of seemingly insignificant details. Even those figurines created only by pressing clay into molds involved more attention from the craftsman compared to our modern concepts of “mass-production”. Modelling the clay by hand or filling the mold, adding details with a stick, a knife, or with a paintbrush, tying on cloth or threads, affixing earrings: each act conveys a confidence regarding what will be attractive to the buyer and efficacious in situ. In fact, different methods of shaping and decorating the figurines can be identified. They could be hand-made, modelled by a single or double-molds, completed through the addition of separately-modelled or hand-made elements, and so on.12 In the same way, the surfaces could be treated with varied and multiple decorative techniques, such as engobe, plasters, painted decorations, and incised details. All these shaping processes are related to the efficiency of the production process of the workshop and to the coroplasts’ preferences and priorities, as they naturally chose methods that enabled them to produce the greatest number of figurines in the shortest amount of time. They were rarely interested in creating unique masterpieces, but rather producing from a limited number of molds hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of figurines to satisfy the needs of the popular market. The commercial output of coroplasts was based, then, on the extensive and rapid repetition of a standard repertoire of images, varied sometimes according to whim, that could remain in production for generations. This means that often the statuettes shared the style as well as the flaws resulting from the use of the same mold.

7The analysis of the clay fabrics used to make the products, the style, and the direct comparison with similar pieces from recent excavations can certainly help us to define whether they belong to a specific geographical context and, when possible, to assign them to a relative chronology. If we add to this a further careful and systematic examination of the morphological characteristics, of the modelling techniques and the details or flaws shared by a series of figurines or molds, it is possible to trace them back to distinct production schemes belonging to different workshops and coroplasts. This research can be strengthened and greatly benefit from opening up to other disciplinary fields and new digital investigation techniques, such as 3D restoration and modelling and computer-aided vision, thanks to which we can have many practical and comparative advantages, from the analysis to the virtual presentation, in a field like that of Cultural Heritage in which a constant comparison between objects stored in different collections is required.

  • 13 Ballet and Lyon-Caen, 2012, p. 343-373.

8One of the main obstacles in the study of terracotta figurines (and, in general, of many other artefacts) preserved in museum collections is often the lack of reliable information about the archaeological context and even the find-spot of the majority of them. They usually ended up in current museum collections as the result of the antiquities trade or from expeditions, and most of them were unearthed illegally or during poorly supervised excavations towards the end of the 19th century. In such cases, the sellers’ not so trustworthy information is all we have regarding the origin of these statuettes. When it comes to objects of ‘unknown provenance’, we cannot rely on any archaeological evidence and dating, therefore piecing together information about these pieces becomes even more complicated. The study of similar figurines coming from controlled excavations in Egypt, where the information obtained from the context allow for different multi-level analyses, can form the basis for a comparative investigation of those from museum collections, thus helping to contextualize them and tease out the production techniques and socio-religious practices of the place where they were produced.13

9The virtual reconstruction of the voids and the hypothetical restoration of fragmentary terracottas based on established typologies, thanks to digital methodologies, allows us to integrate the information already present on the terracotta figurines and to better understand the object. In particular, when the analysis is conducted on materials that share the same origin, it will be possible to identify the modules corresponding to the original molds, and even to trace back to the trail of overmolds, thanks to which each figurine could be used to cast a second generation of molds, whose products can be overmolded in turn, and so on for several generations. The 3D images thus obtained, and the significant metadata that they preserve, can also be used to obtain fixed metrological information (distance between the eyes, distance between eyes and ears, physical proportions, etc.) or other stylistic elements recurring in the same types. All of these elements, suitably shared with the scientific community, will allow specialists to retrieve stylistic and technological information which, through comparisons, could lead to the identification of stylistic and production lines along with the opportunity to geographically contextualize the statuettes, as well as long- or short-distance trade.

10To sum up, the main issues in the current state of this study are the following: 1) lack of information about the original context; 2) lack of either the object or its mold; 3) unexpressed potential of the remains to reconstruct both the technological process leading to chain production; 4) lack of shared information on scattered corpuses of terracottas belonging to different collections.

2. The Project SUR.VI.V.E. applied to the Collection of Museo Egizio, Turin

  • 14 The Department of ABC of the Politecnico di Milano has a well-established tradition of a (...)
  • 15 Christian Greco, Director of the Museo Egizio, and the staff of over 40 people (...)
  • 16 The same digital methodology will be tested on other groups of objects as part (...)

11One of the main objectives of the project SUR.VI.V.E. was to provide a first systematic and in-depth study of a visible collection of terracotta figurines, and also of its invisible counterpart, and to single out criteria that can be replicated in other collections. The project, in its early phase, applied the innovative 3D digital methods of investigation, tested at Politecnico di Milano,14 on 542 terracotta figurines preserved in the collection of the Museo Egizio,15 previously never studied as a whole, in order to increase the amount of information that otherwise would come from only a ceramological and typological analysis.16

12The Politecnico di Milano and Museo Egizio represent the best environment to carry out this kind of research. They have very high-quality logistics and facilities to support its development, an excellent engineering and IT laboratory at the Department of Architecture, Built environment and Construction engineering (DABC), equipped with cutting-edge devices in the field of 2D and 3D digital and computational relief and restoration, required to process the data. In parallel, the Museo Egizio provided direct access to the 542-terracotta figurines, to the database of the museum containing all the information that represents the starting point of the research, as well as to the high-quality colour images of the pieces. The work has been conducted in collaboration with the curators, registrars and museum staff, with whom the best strategies for accessing the corpus have been defined, in terms of space and time, to collect the physical data of the 542 pieces as well as to implement the 3D modelling. In order to provide a set of data ready to be used within the Museo Egizio’s database in line with the work and cataloguing conducted by the curators and registrars, an accurate and consistent terminology and dating range have been established for each main type of terracotta listed in the database.

  • 17 In detail: 138 are from Deir el-Medina, 80 are from Tebtynis, 67 are from Ashmunein, 30 (...)
  • 18 For an overview of the iconography of the terracotta figurines produced in Egypt, see (...)
  • 19 For an overview of the iconography of animal terracotta statuettes, see Boutantin, 2014.

13The 542 terracotta figurines of the Museo Egizio in Turin were found during the excavations carried out in the early 1900s by Italian scholars and researchers in various Egyptian sites.17 In terms of dating, they cover a period of time ranging from the Old Kingdom to the Byzantine period. Within this span, two substantial clusters stand out: the first one consisting of statuettes dated to the New Kingdom (207 out of 542) and a second one which includes statuettes dated to a more general Greco-Roman period (261 out of 542); the pieces belonging to the other historical periods are fewer. The collection is characterized by a wide range of iconographies that varies from the best known representations of classical and Egyptian deities, female figures symbolizing fertility, standing or seated women with their children, prayers, characters linked to ritual or festive contexts, and animals.18 Among the deities, some representations of Greek gods certainly stand out, in particular those of Aphrodite and Demeter, whose characteristics are often merged with those of figures from the Egyptian pantheon such as Isis, Harpocrates, Bes, Apis, and Sarapis. The corpus also includes a significant number of animal figurines, mostly depicting dogs, horses, hippos, giraffes, monkeys, camelids, cattle and birds.19

The Methodology

  • 20 The autoptic analysis of the pieces (ceramological and stylistic study) wa (...)
  • 21 The recognition of the material was conducted on existing fractures, speci (...)
  • 22 The dimensions given always refer to the maximum measurements of the piece.

14The study of the terracotta figurines preserved in the collection of the Museo Egizio took place during two working visits20 and focused on the entire corpus. During the analysis, each statuette was carefully examined and catalogued according to the stylistic, morphological, physical (material),21 and technological (modelling and surface treatment techniques) characteristics, and compared with the other pieces making up the corpus. The maximum dimensions (height, width and thickness) expressed in centimeters were also noted for each statuette,22 as well as any other connection with fragments belonging to the collection.

  • 23 Cat. 7215: 45.6 x 11.5 x 8 cm; Cat. 7218-01: 42.5 x 6 x 12 cm; Cat. 7218-02: 42.4 (...)

15In general, the collection consists mostly of complete or almost complete statuettes; the fragmentary ones are rare. Almost all of the statuettes are in good or fair condition; bad conditions are found only in a few cases. From the analysis of the material (clay) used for the manufacture of the terracotta, it appears that 88.4% were produced from Nile clay fabrics, 4.2% were made from Aswan pink clay fabric and 2.4% were made from calcareous clay fabrics. It should also be noted that 5% of figurines were made of raw clay, or clay whose dough was not fired. As far as modelling methods are concerned, the terracotta figurines present in the collection are mainly molded (64.8%), that is, produced by using single or double molds; the remaining 35.2% are modelled by hand. In the case of a single mold, the figurine is often full and with a smooth back; on the other hand, double-molded terracottas are more frequently hollow, with an open base and a suspension hole (generally with a diameter between 1 and 2.5 cm) in the center of the rear valve. In particular, in the case of figurines produced using double molds, although both the front and the back side come from molds, the back side is usually less detailed, not molded and even not decorated, sometimes only retouched with engravings, and not painted, showing little effort to reproduce the contours of the figure depicted on the back side of the figurine. Some categories of figurines are exceptions, such as the Isis-Aphrodite. In fact, even though these figurines do not show any trace of paint on the back, they are carefully modelled and refined (fig. 1).23 About 200 statuettes, dating mainly to the Greco-Roman period, were selected from the entire corpus to be 3D scanned, based on their iconographic, stylistic and technical characteristics.

Fig. 1. Terracotta Statuettes of Isis-Aphrodite. Photos by Nicola dell’Aquila and Federico Taverni, Museo Egizio, Turin.

Fig. 1. Terracotta Statuettes of             Isis-Aphrodite. Photos by Nicola dell’Aquila and Federico Taverni,             Museo Egizio, Turin.

3. 3D Scanning and Digital Reconstruction

3.1 Evaluating instruments and 3D survey techniques

16Nowadays, there are different instruments and technologies that permit us to obtain precise and high detailed 3D models of architecture, works of art, artefacts, and common objects in general. The acquisition of the geometry and texture of three-dimensional objects has become a standard method of documenting cultural heritage. A 3D documentation of cultural heritage can be conducted safely thanks to instruments and techniques that do not damage the structure or the surface of the objects. In fact, neither scanners (both structured light and laser) nor cameras require direct contact with the object of the study. Both approaches need different instruments and skills, but the results in terms of precision and resolution are comparable.

17Scanners and cameras are optical instruments that take advantage of the light to record data, even if they work in different ways. Scanners are defined as active sensors, i.e., they emit a ray of light or a pattern of lights on the objects. These devices have also two or more cameras, as well as detectors that analyse and calculate the distance of surface points in the visible field. Thus, the digital rendering of the objects is in their actual size. On the contrary, cameras are passive sensors, i.e., they convert the natural light into a digital signal and record the data through the camera sensor. Both techniques, scanning and photogrammetry, have advantages and disadvantages; on one hand, the photogrammetric workflow is more challenging and requires better trained operators than the scanner approach, but the instruments (cameras and lenses) are cheaper if compared to scanners. Moreover, the photogrammetric data elaboration takes longer compared to the elaboration of scanned data. At the end of each workflow, the result is a single 3D file in .obj format paired with a .jpg image that represents the texture of the object. If the geometric results can be considered comparable, it is undeniable that the texture coming from the photogrammetric process is considerably better than the texture obtained with the scanner. Usually, commercial hand-held scanners integrate a small camera with a resolution of 1.3 Mpixel. Scanners do not require the use of markers or calibrated bars (needed in the photogrammetric approach) and there is no need to calibrate them before each scanning process, which significantly simplifies and speeds up the work.

18For these reasons, the SUR.VI.V.E. project made the use of a structured light scanner. This choice was made intentionally considering the large number of objects that had to be digitalised in a short period of time. In fact, the use of photogrammetry would have taken a longer training period compared to the single day of training required for the hand-held scanner.

19The scanner model used for the digitalisation is the ARTEC EVA produced by ARTEC which also provides the software ARTEC STUDIO. Thanks to this software the operator can follow the process from start to finish: from the acquisition to the export of the final model. The EVA scanner is ideal for medium sized objects starting from 10 cm up to a couple of meters; it is a triangulation structured light scanner (flash bulb) that can reach up to 0.1 mm accuracy and 0.2 mm resolution (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. The scanner station set-up in the workroom of the Museo Egizio, Turin. Photo by C. Caputo.

Fig. 2. The scanner station set-up in the             workroom of the Museo Egizio, Turin. Photo by C. Caputo.

3.2 The scanning workflow

20Thanks to the software ARTEC STUDIO, the scanning process is straightforward and fast; in one day it was possible to digitalise up to 20 statuettes. The process starts with the acquisition phase: first of all, the software prompted the operator to enter the desired resolution for the 3D model, which was set to the maximum value. When the acquisition starts, the operator moves the object around with slow and smooth movements and on the laptop screen the geometry captured by the scanner appears in real time. This feature helps the surveyor to understand if the object was scanned in its entirety or if it is necessary to add more scans to improve the survey (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. The object is placed on a flat surface while the projector emits patterns of light while scanning and the operator moves around it with slow and smooth movements. C. Caputo and A. Mandelli at work. Photos by Corinna Rossi.

Fig. 3. The object is placed on a flat             surface while the projector emits patterns of light while scanning             and the operator moves around it with slow and smooth movements.             C. Caputo and A. Mandelli at work. Photos by Corinna Rossi.

21When the acquisition is completed, the data had to be treated to get the final 3D model. The first step is the alignment, in which the software places the scans in the correct position using the ICP algorithm. If this process fails, it is possible to perform a manual pre-alignment and then launch the automatic optimisation (fig. 4). Once the alignment is completed, a series of commands makes it possible to clean up the data from noise and unwanted objects, such as the table or other supports.

Fig. 4. Scans not aligned of terracotta figurine.

Fig. 4. Scans not aligned of terracotta             figurine.
  • 24 Suppl. 18557: Elephant and rider (from Tebtynis). Aswan clay fabric. 18 x (...)

22The last two steps regard the generation of the 3D mesh (and its optimisations) and the texturing of the model. When the mesh is produced, the operator optimises and corrects any possible flaw using a list of filters. The aim is to reach a smooth, regular, and watertight mesh before the texturing stage. Finally, the texture is recreated reprojecting the images, captured by the cameras, onto the mesh (figs. 5.a-c).24 The result is then exported in .obj format that contains the 3D geometry, namely the position of each vertex, the UV position of each texture coordinate vertex, vertex normal, and the faces that make each polygon defined as a list of vertices, and texture vertices (fig. 6).

Fig. 5. 3D model with and without texture (Suppl. 18557).

Fig. 5. 3D model with and without texture             (Suppl. 18557).

Fig. 6. 3D geometry in .obj format (Cat. 7215).

Fig. 6. 3D geometry in .obj format (Cat.             7215).

3.3 Possible applications of 3D models

23The models thus obtained, from the acquisition to the optimization, are accurate from a metric point of view and with every geometrical and colorimetric information. With additional software, both freeware and proprietary, it is possible to slice the models and automatically extract bidimensional drawings. These characteristics make 3D models suitable for a large variety of uses; they can be: i) used to define an informative database on the morphological features of each statuette, ii) prototyped with 3D printers to recreate physical replicas, iii) used for didactic and researching purposes, iv) used as a repository for the museum collections, v) studied and investigated by specialists.

4. Final remarks

24The analysis of artefacts, their digital preservation, and dissemination are benefiting substantially from 3D technology. Accurate 3D models of artefacts are becoming an invaluable resource. These technologies enable us to present the material in an engaging way, they facilitate analysis, interpretation, and sharing of results. Laser scanners and other 3D modelling tools can simplify several tasks in the field of archaeology, such as the digital reconstruction of artefacts, the creation of virtual typologies, digital extensions of museum exhibits, or the creation and use of replicas for preservation and teaching purposes. Furthermore, these digital tools will enhance the study, presentation, preservation and sharing of significant archaeological artefacts.

25The above described project SUR.VI.V.E. is an on-going project that aims to investigate terracotta figurines from Egyptian collections starting from one of the most important. Special emphasis was given to the part of the project that deals with the computation analysis of these specimens, the development of interactive applications that will allow us to better get to know this category of objects, and most important, to obtain further knowledge about the history and culture of the Ancient Egypt.

26A hidden risk trying to achieve this goal is that studying, surveying and modelling these artefacts might just be an end in itself without wider implications. In order to mitigate this risk, the methodology has to be designed with a triple aim in mind: to be proportional to the available data, to be universally replicable, and to function as an archive of information. First of all, it has to provide the best results, and it must offer a criterion that can be replicated on other collections or groups of materials, not only to achieve the same results but also to lay down the foundation of a network of data. Furthermore, it has to act as storage of data, and thus give the possibility to other specialists to access, understand and re-use them to investigate other aspects of the same category of objects and obtain results in contiguous types of research. 3D models, then, can be used for dissemination purposes, but their final aim is to be used for current and future research purposes.

Acknowledgements

27The Authors would like to thank Estelle Galbois for inviting us to prepare this paper and share the preliminary results of the Project SUR.VI.V.E. in this volume. A particular thank-you goes to the Director Christian Greco and to the entire staff of the Museo Egizio, all curators and registrars, for the constant support and collaboration in carrying out the various phases of the project. Special thanks go to Corinna Rossi (DABC-Politecnico di Milano) for her valuable advice for the implementation of the project and the present contribution.

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Notes

1 The description of the project and final remarks of this article are authored by C. Caputo; the 3D Scanning and Digital Reconstruction section is the work of A. Mandelli.

2 Uhlenbrock, 1993, p. 7-27; Frankfurter, 2014, p. 129-141; Frankfurter, 2018; Ballet, 2020a.

3 This is not the case of the Museo Egizio in Turin, which allows visitors and specialists to take a look at every terracotta figurine in the Collection.

4 Schürmann, 1989; Kaufmann, 1915; Perdrizet, 1921; Breccia, 1934; Graindor, 1939; Higgins, 1954; Philipp, 1972; Ghalioungui and Wagner, 1974, p. 189-198; Dunand, 1979, 1990.

5 Bayer-Niemeier, 1988; Fischer, 1994; Ballet, 1995, p. 259-264; Török, 1995; Bailey, 2008; Boutantin 2014. For an overview of the practice of the terracotta figurines’ production in Greco-Roman Egypt, see Ballet, 1996, p. 113-122; Barrett, 2011; Galbois, forthcoming, with further references.

6 Allen, 1985; Szymańska, 2005; Caputo, 2012, p. 363-375; Bennett et al., 2016; PoŁudnikiewicz, 2018, p. 317-323; Galbois, 2019, p. 77-88; Ballet, 2020b, p. 45-71; Ballet, 2020c, p. 35-60; Ballet et al., 2019. For an up-to-date overview of the recent discovery contexts and production spaces of terracottas in Egypt, see Ballet, 2020a, p. 25-34.

7 For an overview of developments in methods of digital imaging applied to artefacts and terracotta figurines, see (with further references) Stinson, 2004; Papantoniou et al., 2012, p. 543-550; Walcek and Counts, 2014, p. 1-4; Kelley and Wood, 2018; Sarri and Athanassopoulos, 2020, p. 169-182; Lichtenberger and Moran, 2018, p. 1-6; Sero et al., 2021, p. 1-20.

8 The Project SUR.VI.V.E., conducted under the supervision of Corinna Rossi (DABC-Politecnico di Milano), is funded by the Politecnico di Milano and awarded of the “Seal of Excellence” by the European Commission (H2020-MSCA-IF-2019).

9 On the techniques applied to the partially molded pottery figure vases of the New Kingdom, see Bourriau, 1987, p. 81-96; Dormann, 2002.

10 See Barrett, 2011, p. 91 and fn. 277-278, and p. 99, fn. 307, with further references. See also, Caubert et al., 1998; Blondé and Muller, 2000.

11 The lack of texts about the structure of the workshops producing terracotta figurines makes it difficult to reconstruct their organization and to understand them fully. The profession of coroplast was probably not recognized and can be classified under the generic name of ‘potter’, the most common name for manufacturers of clay vessels. However, recent archaeological discoveries provide valuable information, revealing close relationships between the workshops of pottery and those of figurines, see Ballet, 2020a, p. 46-49.

12 Ballet, 1997, p. 207-213.

13 Ballet and Lyon-Caen, 2012, p. 343-373.

14 The Department of ABC of the Politecnico di Milano has a well-established tradition of applying new technologies to the study of Cultural Heritage, see Mandelli et al., 2017, p. 497-504; Mandelli et al., 2019, p. 743-750; Banfi and Mandelli, 2021, p. 1-31.

15 Christian Greco, Director of the Museo Egizio, and the staff of over 40 people under his guidance, opened the doors of the museum to research and innovation. The first results of this novel approach materialized in the exhibition Archeologia Invisibile (Invisible Archaeology), made by experts from different institutions from all over the world and focusing on how modern technologies and tools can reveal aspects and information of the ancient material culture that would be otherwise invisible (https://museoegizio.it/esplora/mostre/archeologia-invisibile/).

16 The same digital methodology will be tested on other groups of objects as part of the updated version of the Project SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections) Phase 2 – Extension to other collections, approved on December 2022 at Polimi-DABC. During this second phase, in distinction from the work on the collection of the Museo Egizio, the artefacts will be selected according to a more fragmented state of conservation and possibly having the same provenance.

17 In detail: 138 are from Deir el-Medina, 80 are from Tebtynis, 67 are from Ashmunein, 30 are from Eliopoli, 14 are from Assiut, 13 are from Gebelin, 4 are from Aswan, 3 are from Giza, 2 are from Qau el-Kebir, 1 is from the Valley of the Queens, and 194 are of unknown origin. For the history of the excavations, see Moiso, 2008, p. 199-269; Del Vesco and Moiso, 2017.

18 For an overview of the iconography of the terracotta figurines produced in Egypt, see Ballet, 2020a.

19 For an overview of the iconography of animal terracotta statuettes, see Boutantin, 2014.

20 The autoptic analysis of the pieces (ceramological and stylistic study) was carried out during the first visit to the collection (March 2021); the 3D scanning of the selected terracottas was subsequently carried out during a second visit (July 2021).

21 The recognition of the material was conducted on existing fractures, specifying the color and texture of the fabrics. On whole statuettes only, the type of material was reported without further details. The macroscopic analysis of the fabric was performed through the use of a monocular magnifying lens with resolving power 20x and field of view of 21 mm.

22 The dimensions given always refer to the maximum measurements of the piece.

23 Cat. 7215: 45.6 x 11.5 x 8 cm; Cat. 7218-01: 42.5 x 6 x 12 cm; Cat. 7218-02: 42.4 x 13 x 7 cm.

24 Suppl. 18557: Elephant and rider (from Tebtynis). Aswan clay fabric. 18 x 15 x 5 cm. See, Fassone, 2016, p. 69.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Terracotta Statuettes of Isis-Aphrodite. Photos by Nicola dell’Aquila and Federico Taverni, Museo Egizio, Turin.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 251k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 294k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 297k
Titre Fig. 2. The scanner station set-up in the workroom of the Museo Egizio, Turin. Photo by C. Caputo.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 416k
Titre Fig. 3. The object is placed on a flat surface while the projector emits patterns of light while scanning and the operator moves around it with slow and smooth movements. C. Caputo and A. Mandelli at work. Photos by Corinna Rossi.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Titre Fig. 4. Scans not aligned of terracotta figurine.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 61k
Titre Fig. 5. 3D model with and without texture (Suppl. 18557).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 278k
Titre Fig. 6. 3D geometry in .obj format (Cat. 7215).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/docannexe/image/26316/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
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Clementina Caputo et Alessandro Mandelli, « Digital and Cultural Study of Terracotta Figurines in the Museo Egizio, Turin. The Project SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections) »Pallas, 121 | 2023, 79-85.

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Clementina Caputo et Alessandro Mandelli, « Digital and Cultural Study of Terracotta Figurines in the Museo Egizio, Turin. The Project SUR.VI.V.E. (SURveying VIrtual Voids in Egyptian collections) »Pallas [En ligne], 121 | 2023, mis en ligne le 13 février 2024, consulté le 25 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/pallas/26316 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/pallas.26316

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Auteurs

Clementina Caputo

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Architecture, Built environment and Construction engineering (DABC)
Politecnico di Milano

Alessandro Mandelli

Specialist Senior Technician
Politecnico di Milano
Department of Architecture, Built environment and Construction engineering (DABC)

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