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Sumer: A Digital Board Game with an Ancient Twist

Sumer is a digital board game inspired by M.U.L.E. and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Race across the Ziggurat in ancient Sumer to harvest barley, herd goats, and sacrifice to the great goddess Inanna. Sumer draws on modern Eurogame design elements like worker placement, territory control, and auctions. Its unique innovation is to place these into an action video game.

In this exclusive interview, Jan van der Crabben, CEO and Founder of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), sat down with developers of Sumer at Game Developer’s Conference 2016 in San Francisco as they walk us through their accomplishments.

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Inanna being worshiped. Photo © Sumergame.com

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Recreating an Egyptian Throne Fit For a Queen

When you think of ancient civilizations, what comes to mind? Perhaps you imagine massive pyramids, majestic statues, or vast reliefs carved from stone. This is no coincidence – after all, they are what we see in both museums and ruins today. Stone and other materials such as bone are durable, allowing them to last to the present day and become embedded in the public consciousness at sites such as the Parthenon and the Roman Forum. But what about all of the objects that have been lost to time?

Throne of the Egyptian Queen Hetepheres.

The throne on display at Harvard Semitic Museum. Photo © Caroline Cervera.

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3D Scanning the Ancient World

In recent years, there has been a flurry of new technologies emerging at a price which makes them (just about) affordable, notably 3D scanners and printers, and such technologies have attracted attention in the news of late for their employment in the digital recreation of artefacts and archaeological sites destroyed by IS. Indeed, 3D printing is a wonderful tool for bringing the past to life: Museum3D, for example, uses its 3D prints to engage museum visitors with low-vision and Alzheimer’s. However, as this post will show, 3D scanning is just as important to public history.

A 3D model of an East Greek wine jug made via 3D scanning. Image © Ure Museum.

A 3D model of an East Greek wine jug. Image © Ure Museum.

There are many methods to creating a 3D model. One of the most popular methods for amateurs is photogrammetry, where all you need is a good camera and a modern computer. Thankfully, museums the world over have been engaging with such technologies, and have also been pretty generous in making their scans freely available: for example, the Smithsonian hosts some online via AutoDesk, while the British Museum has a collection freely available for download from Sketchfab, either to admire on a screen, or to print out (Links to these collections, as well as some other great examples, are listed below).

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Cartonnage mummy masks. Wealthier ancient Egyptians were keen to prepare for the afterlife. A mummy case was important part for the funerary equipment. After the body was embalmed and wrapped, in a linen bandage, the mummy was placed in case of coffin. Egyptians of a high social status often had lavish and colorful cases.  With thanks to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Visiting the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

During my last visit to London, I resided in a hotel at Gower Street of Bloomsbury. By chance, I discovered a hidden gem within the heart of University College London while surfing Google. It was located just few minutes away from me: the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The Museum lies at Malet Place, hidden away from the main streets.

The Museum’s building and façade do not convey any message to the public that this is one of the most important museums in the world, housing more than 80,000 ancient Egyptian objects and artifacts! Actually, it ranks fourth, after the Cairo Museum, the British Museum, and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in terms of the number of quality of ancient Egyptian objects. I emailed the Museum, requesting permission to take no-flash photos of the objects. Ms. Maria Ragan, the manager of the Museum, kindly replied and granted me permission. OK, let’s go!

The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum's rooms are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place
London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum’s rooms (halls) are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

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The Cinquantenaire Museum: A Hidden Gem in Brussels

There’s a hidden gem in Brussels, located just outside the heart of the old city, which far too many visitors miss: The Cinquantenaire Museum. Elegantly positioned inside Brussels’ Parc du Cinquantenaire, the Cinquantenaire Museum is teeming with priceless ancient, medieval, and modern treasures from around the world. This January, I was lucky enough to visit the museum with Nigel Hetherington of Past Preservers and see firsthand why the museum is aptly called “Belgium’s Louvre.”

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Hoards: Buried Treasure at the British Museum

Tucked away and hidden from most casual passersby, the British Museum’s latest exhibition Hoards: The Hidden History of Ancient Britain is much like the once-buried treasure it displays. I found it in a small room located on the edge of the ancient Roman gallery on the museum’s second floor, adjacent to the Department of Coins and Medals study room. Despite its size, it holds a wealth of knowledge about this fascinating practice of prehistoric and Roman-era Britons.

Ancient British hoards on display at the exhibition. Image © Trustees of the British Museum.

Image © Trustees of the British Museum.

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The Forgotten Town of Halieis

2,500 years ago, the bay of modern Porto Heli would have looked pretty familiar to us now – a great protected bay, with hills no doubt covered with olive trees. But there was no Porto Heli that we could recognise, though there may have been buildings and farms which have completely disappeared. What we would have seen was a compact walled town called Halieis that lay on the southern side of the bay (opposite the hotel), with ships pulled up on the foreshore or riding at anchor. Above the town was the acropolis, the high town, with defences to give refuge to the lower townspeople from enemies and pirates. The bay provided protection from storms from the east or south.

Halieis today. (Photo © Heinz Schmitz)

The bay of Porto Heli today. (Photo © Heinz Schmitz)

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