Shedding Light on Ancient Inscriptions using 3D Models – a report on collaboration between the ANU and the British Museum

This talk reports on a project which saw the production of 3D digital replicas of a sample set of cuneiform tablets housed at the British Museum. The talk will highlight the ways in which digital technologies can enable research questions that would not be possible without them: 3D digital models can be enlarged, zoomed in on, digitally manipulated, and used to produce larger replicas that will improve our analysis of the unique features on the tablet surface. In the project with the British Museum 3D models are examined to establish whether they can be used to achieve a greater understanding of the minute displacement of clay on the object surface, invisible to the naked eye. If this proves to be possible the models will help in the identification of specific authoring individuals, as well as potentially being useful in the detection of fakes and modern replicas.

The cuneiform tablets capture the earliest instances of written language in human history, but the examination of the materiality of the cuneiform object is a new and novel approach. A preliminary study into wedge order (Taylor, 2014) determined the vast majority (two thirds) of tablets in a sample set of objects from the British Museum to have insufficient clay displacement to determine such features through unaided visual inspection. It is here that the application of digital technologies is opening up new research possibilities. 

Date & time

Fri 10 Mar 2017, 4–5pm


Sir Roland Wilson Theatrette (Building #120), Australian National University


Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller


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