ANR-FRQSC-2 - AAP franco-québécois en Sciences humaines et sociales

Introspection of the archaeological material culture in the digital era – INTROSPECT

Innovative methods to reveal the secrets of archaeological artifacts

The INTROSPECT project is a research collaboration between researchers in computer science and archeology made up of about fifteen people from France (the IRISA and CReAAH laboratories, Inrap and the company Image ET), Université Laval and INRS-ETE

New tools for archaeologists

INTROSPECT aims to develop, for archaeologists, new uses and tools that facilitate access to new knowledge through interactive numerical introspection methods that combine computed tomography with 3D visualization technologies, such as Virtual Reality, tangible interactions and 3D printing. The scientific heart of the project is the systematization of the relationship between the artefact, the archaeological context, the digital object and the virtual reconstruction of the archaeological context that represents it and its tangible double resulting from the 3D impression. This axiomatization of its innovative methods makes it possible to enhance our research on our heritage and to make use of accessible digital means of dissemination. This approach breaks with traditional methods and applies to specific archaeological problems: these case studies will be examined in various archaeological contexts on both sides of the Atlantic. Quebec museums are also partners in the project to enhance our work with the general public.

The overall objective of the project is to develop a numerical methodology for integrated non-destructive study of archaeological furniture and sediments to improve diagnosis, understanding, manipulation, conservation and dissemination for archeology researchers. To do this, the use of new technologies is required: CT is an X-ray imaging technology that records the densities of the materials that make up the archaeological objects. It allows their reconstruction in 3D. This method analyzes the material at the heart of the object without altering it and provides qualitative and quantitative parameters on the materials used in order to define and understand the internal structures, the manufacturing method and the state of conservation .

Virtual Reality allows one or more users to physically interact in a space and with a numerical simulation of a 3D universe. 3D printing, for its part, makes it possible to transform a 3D digital model into a tangible object. The combination of these different technologies allows a characterization of the materials and a complete non-destructive cartography of the archaeological furniture and to interact virtually or physically on the model obtained by tomodensitometry, individually or in group, locally or remotely; in fine this model allows, thanks to the virtual environment of the object, to recontextualize it for a museum use (3D printing / virtual environment).

Since the beginning of the project we have had the opportunity to multiply the use cases with furniture of various materials, sometimes composite, in conditions of samples (en bloc, whole object) and very varied conservations (altered or not) . These opportunities allowed us to vary acquisition technologies, sometimes even combine them, and renditions. These experiments have allowed us to highlight the range of the most compliant use and limits of these technologies, or limiting characters (need engineering ...).
We also had the opportunity to work on new use cases that proved to be very rich to refine the expression of the needs of the various partners in the field of cultural heritage, including a work on Wampums from two First Nations of Canada. Quebec preserved in the Treasury of the Cathedral of Chartres, for which a delegation of 7 people from Quebec partners came to work in France.
During this first period, we promoted the project via multi-partner scientific communications. We also organized several scientific events: the GMPCA symposium by UMR CreAAH in April 2017 and a seminar, «Archeology, digital imaging and 3D«, by Inrap, IRISA-Inria Rennes, which gathered 130 people.
Regarding scientific mediation, we presented a case study on a 15th century engraved tablet containing a score during the Science and Music Day, in Rennes in October 2017, a conference on the case study of Wampums, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Rennes, in November 2017, and we presented our work on the show «around the question«, on radio RFI, in July 2018.
 Our work made it possible to produce several operational prototypes in mixed reality, around the case studies. An effort was made on the genericity of the tools developed.

The potential of bulk sampling analyzes highlighted during tests, as well as on ceramics, encourages us to focus on this issue in the autumn and winter of 2018. An effort has been made on the genericity of the tools developed and developments will continue to cover all four axes (See, Reveal, Manipulate and Share).

? Ronan Gaugne, Françoise Labaune-Jean, Dominique Fontaine, Gaétan Le Cloirec, Valérie Gouranton. From the engraved tablet to the digital tablet, history of a fifteenth century music score. Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, Association for Computing Machinery, 2020, 13 (3).
? Théophane Nicolas, Ronan Gaugne, Valérie Gouranton. Physical digital access inside archaeological material, ERCIM News 111, Special theme: Digital Humanities, Guest editors: George Bruseker (ICS-FORTH), László Kovács (MTA-SZTAKI) and Franco Niccolucci (University of Florence), October 2017
? Flavien Lécuyer, Valérie Gouranton, Aurélien Lamercerie, Adrien Reuzeau, Benoit Caillaud, Bruno Arnaldi. Unveiling the implicit knowledge, one scenario at a time. Visual Computer, Springer Verlag, 2020
? Flavien Lécuyer, Valérie Gouranton, Adrien Reuzeau, Ronan Gaugne, Bruno Arnaldi. Action sequencing in VR, a no-code approach. LNCS Transactions on Computational Science, Springer, 2020
? Ronan Gaugne, Jean-Baptiste Barreau, Flavien Lécuyer, Théophane Nicolas, Jean-Marie Normand, Valérie Gouranton. Chapter : eXtended Reality for Cultural Heritage, Handbook of Cultural Heritage Analysis, Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2022
? Jean-Baptiste Barreau, Emmanuel Lanoë, Ronan Gaugne. 3D Sketching of the Fortified Entrance of the Citadel of Aleppo from a Few Sightseeing Photos. Horst Kremers. Digital Cultural Heritage, Springer International Publishing, 2020, 978-3-030-15200-0

? Ronan Gaugne, Théophane Nicolas, Quentin Petit, Mai Otsuki, Valérie Gouranton. Evaluation of a Mixed Reality based Method for Archaeological Excavation Support. ICAT-EGVE 2019 - International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence - Eurographics Symposium on Virtual Environments, Sep 2019, Tokyo, Japan. Silver best paper award
? Marie-Anne Paradis, Théophane Nicolas, Ronan Gaugne, Jean-Baptiste Barreau, Réginald Auger et Valérie Gouranton, Making Virtual Archeology Great Again (without scientific compromise), Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W15, 2019,
? Ronan Gaugne, Stéphanie Porcier, Théophane Nicolas, François Coulon, Odile Hays, Valérie Gouranton. A digital introspection of a mummy cat Digital Heritage, 3rd International Congress & Expo, New Realities: Authenticity & Automation in the Digital Age, San francisco, United States, 2018
? Théophane Nicolas, Ronan Gaugne, Cédric Tavernier, Emilie Millet, Renaud Bernadet, et al.. Lift the veil of the block samples from the Warcq chariot burial with 3D digital technologies. Digital Heritage - 3rd International Congress & Expo, IEEE, Oct 2018, San Francisco, United States.
? Flavien Lécuyer, Valérie Gouranton, Ronan Gaugne, Théophane Nicolas, Grégor Marchand, Bruno Arnaldi. INSIDE Interactive and Non-destructive Solution for Introspection in Digital Environments, Digital Heritage – 3rd International Congress & Expo, IEEE, Oct 2018, San Francisco, United States. New Realities: Authenticity & Automation in the Digital Age

Material culture and the relationship to its historical context and environment are at the heart of archaeologists’ concerns. Archaeological artefacts and sediments are fragile testimonies that should be analyzed, interpreted, preserved, and valorized. This complex relationship is changing in the digital era where archaeologists have access to interactive virtual representations of the object in Virtual Reality or a copy obtained by 3D printing. In recent years, digitization methods markedly progressed providing a relevant response with non-destructive solutions for preservation, analysis, and dissemination of knowledge on cultural heritage. However, those analytical techniques are limited to the surface of the objects, monuments or sites. Yet, the structural information yielding information on the transformation of raw material and the contextual relationship of its acquisition and use is a key aspect that can be handled by innovative digital approaches.

INTROSPECT offers to archaeologists novel uses, tools to ease the access to new knowledge through digital interactive introspection methods that combine CT scans with 3D visualization technologies, such as Virtual Reality, tangible interactions and 3D printing. CT scans provides a systematic record of the densities of the raw materials composing an object and a 3D reconstruction. This method analyzes the inner part of the artifact without altering it and allows the specialist to define and understand its internal structure, method of manufacture and state of conservation. We propose to apply also this method to archaeological sediments. Virtual Reality provides a new context to the object and enhance the interaction between the analyst and the subject under investigation. Multidisciplinarity brings a major methodological challenge, however, the approach we propose involves the pooling of methods used in engineering, virtual reality, archeology and museology. Team members all collaborated in joint projects where everyone's experience in these different research fields was put to use.

This project is part of the thematic focus “research in social sciences in the digital era” by proposing innovative ways of working based on digitization for the analysis and use of data in cultural heritage studies.

Project coordination

Valérie Gouranton (Institut National des Sciences Appliqués de Rennes)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ENS Rennes Ecole Normale Supérieure de Rennes
IE Image ET
Société du patrimoine urbain de québec
Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke, QC
Musée des Abénakis d'Odanak
ULaval Université Laval
CNRS Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
INRS Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique
INRAP Institut National de Recherche en Archéologie Préventive
UR1 Université de Rennes 1
INSA de Rennes Institut National des Sciences Appliqués de Rennes

Help of the ANR 249,990 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 36 Months

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