Sunday, 29 March 2015

The horizons of the exhibit “FACES”: anthropological context and applications in medicine

The exhibition FACES. The Many Visages of Human History is, in its own way, a landmark of the work that Arc Team, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Padua and Antrocom NPO are making together.

The reconstructions of the faces of hominins; of St. Anthony and of  the Blessed Luca Belludi; of Francesco Petrarca and of Giambattista Morgagni, are the evidence of a research that lasted for months and that continues nowadays; a research intended to be expanded to other areas of interest.

In fact, the exhibition offers to the visitors the opportunity to reflect on concepts meaningful to anthropology as diversity, self-perception and identity from the point of view both historical and  contemporary, but it is also a mirror of a continuous testing of technologies that open new perspectives in different areas of anthropological research.

Staying in the wake of the topics of the exhibition, there is no doubt that the perception of the self and diversity are important parameters in the assessments of medical anthropology, especially if the feedback on them are carried out in the light of the implementation of new technologies and 3D printing, in particular applied in medicine.

For example, the prostheses that can be constructed, even printed, in a relatively short time and custom-made for the patient. We have a lot of examples from this point of view:  the mandible custom-made for a 83 years old woman or the cranium completely replaced in a 22 years old Dutch patient; or the realization of live organs, such as liver, tracheal cartilage and ear directly using living cells.

More, forensic reconstruction is a valuable tool in reconstructive surgery: examples of implementation, in this context, are the reconstruction of the face of Albert of Trento via open source software, or of the face of a child mummy preserved at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

I shall focus in particular on an implementation made by Cicero Moraes in order to treat the developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), a neonatal congenital malformation and treatable using Pavlik harness or making a particular plaster cast (hip spica cast). There may be, in severe cases, even a type of orthopedic surgery.

This treatment involves a continuous monitoring of the patient because of its complications: pain, increased temperature, lesions of the skin. Moraes, together with researchers Munhoz, Kunkel and Tanaka, has implemented an alternative method to the common orthosis consisting in a photogrammetric scanning of the hip in order to replicate the perfect geometry of the anatomical part, with reduction of costs and time and avoiding complications to the patient.

The aims of our research are gradually expanding and we know that we have to do still a lot of work. It's a good thing, however, that we stopped for a moment to take stock of the situation and to recognize that we are helping to improve the state of affairs. Not only in archeology and anthropology, but also in other fields thanks to the scope of what we are doing. A result achieved thanks to motivated individuals who, despite residing in geographic areas far apart, have joined efforts to reach a common goal by sharing data and projects.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Arc-Team: Conflict Archaeology Workflow

Since 2011 Arc-Team is working on the field of modern conflict archaeology.
The most recent step was the conclusion of our European Project (Interreg IV), during which we had the possibility to document for the first time on lage area the military remains of both conflicting parties: The Austro-Hungarian Army and the Italian Royal Army.
We've filmed the single steps of archive studies, field work, data processing and tests for future applications of the collected data.
The result is a 4:22 minutes long video clip, which we want to share with you:

Soon we will post also some scientific details and results of the project.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Pre-release of free Portuguese e-book: Manual of Digital 3D Facial Reconstruction

3D Designer Cicero Moraes (Arc-Team/Ebrafol), and Forensic Dentist Paulo Miamoto (Ebrafol) are working on the final stages of their e-book, "Manual of Digital 3D Facial Reconstruction - Applications with free software and open source". Although working for some years researching open software applied to forensic and archaelogical contexts, the duo reached international notoriety last year, when they took part in the facial approximation of Saint Anthony. The facial reconstruction of Mary Magdalene is their latest project that has drawn the media's attention.

Nowadays, Moraes and Miamoto are the coordinators of a non-profit NGO, the Brazilian Team of Forensic Anthropology and Dentistry (Ebrafol, for its acronym in Portuguese - The main objective of Ebrafol is the promotion of Human Rights by the application of the aforementioned sciences. They highlight that the tools used in historical projects like Mary Magdalene's are the same that can be applied to help human identification, and possibly contribute to solve cases of disappeared individuals.

Moraes and Miamoto now expect to share their methodology of work using free software in their e-book. "Unlike what most people may think at first sight, we actually want as many people as possible to learn all about our techniques and apply them to their needs, which might actually help people around them. And that's why the e-book will be free", explains Cicero. In this work, the reader will be taught from square one all about facial reconstruction, since digitalizing a skull with photogrammetry, up to rendering the modeled face. It is intended for absolute beginners, as Dr. Miamoto explains "I didn't have a solid background on 3D Modeling during my regular studies, it was a slow but constant learning process. Therefore it is important for us that this book is easily comprehensible by professionals of backgrounds other than computer sciences, like dentists, anthropologists, pathologists, archaeologists and anyone with a will to learn."  Open software like Python Photogrammetry Toolbox with Graphic User Interface (PPT-GUI), MeshLab, MakeHuman and Blender are some of the applications that are explained in tutorials throughout the chapters.

To receive your copy of the book, please go to, fill out the form and a copy will be sent soon, as the book is on its final reviewing phase. Although it is still in Portuguese, the authors expect to release translated versions to Spanish and English hereafter.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Project Tovel part 3: georeferencing historical maps

In many archaeological GIS a very important step is the study of historical maps. During the Project Tovel this stage has been a primary target, being strictly related to the 3D reconstruction of the underwater surface of the lake. In fact one of the best source for the bathymetry of Tovel is the plan drawn, between 1937 and 1938, by Edgardo Baldi (director of the "Istituto italiano di idrobiologia Dott. Marco De Marchi" of Pallanza, currently incorporated in the National Research CouncilInstitute of Ecosystem Study).
To Import Baldi's map into my GIS, I simply used the "georeferencer" tool of +QGIS, based on the related CTP (Carta Tecnica Provinciale) I loaded previously. The short videotutorial below describes this operation:

Have a nice day!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Project Tovel part 2: load georeferenced raster level

The second minipost regarding the Project Tovel is very short and it simply focuses on the visualization of the raster basic map of the lake district (C.T.P., Carta Tecnica Provinciale), we downloaded as open geodata from the "Portale Cartografico Trentino". For different reasons, I chose to analyze this data in +QGIS  (later we will use other software) and, as you can see from the short videotutorial below, this operation is very simple:

Have a nice day!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Project Tovel part 1: open geodata

As many of you know, since some years we (Arc-Team) are supporting Prof. Tiziano Camgna's project regarding the underwater forest of Lake Tovel (1, 2) in Trentino (Italy).
In the past days we are asked to give a lesson about our contribution to the project at the Liceo Scientifico Bertrand Russel of Cles (TN, Italy). In order to prepare some data for the event, I started to work on a 3D map of the underwater surface of the lake and,  to collect material for different ArcheOS videotutorials I recorded almost the complete process. For this reason I start today a series of "minipost" to publish this material, hoping that this will be useful for some readers.
In this first minipost I will write about open geodata, which are very important for archaeologists, but also for other professionals. Before to enter the topic, I have to say that we live and work (fortunately for us) in a Italian province (Trentino) which is sensible to this matter (open data). If you can understand Italian, you should read +Maurizio Napolitano's blog, one of the real expert in this field currently working at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler.
During the Project Tovel I needed geographical open data to set up the GIS system with some basic cartography. More specifically I started with the "Carta Tecnica Provinciale" (a technical map of the province), which I downloaded form the "Portale Cartografico Trentino" of the S.I.A.T. (Sistema Informativo Ambientale e Territoriale of the Province Trentino). As you can read in the portal (sorry, just Italian), the C.T.P. (Carta Tecnica Provinciale) is available Under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 terms.
The videotutorial you can see below just show the simple process to access and download these data (in raster or vector) form the webgis service.

I hope this first post was youseful for some of you, have a nice day!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Face of Mary Magdalene is reconstructed with 3D digital technology

3D Designer from Brazil reconstructed the face of Jesus' preferred follower from her skull

Wrote by Jamerson Miléski, reporter (Brazil)
Translated by Dr. Paulo Miamoto. PhD

One of the most significant characters in the History, transcribed by the biblical texts and surrounded by folklore, will have her face revealed to the world by the hands of a Brazilian. The 3D designer from Sinop-MT (Brazil), Cicero Moraes is responsible for the work that recreated the face of Mary Magdalene from her skull.

Cicero is vice coordinator of Ebrafol (Brazilian Team of Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Dentistry) and member of archaeological research group Arc-Team from Italy. His work has gained worldwide prominence after forensic approximation made from the skull of St. Anthony, at the request of the University of Padova, Italy. It was the repercussion of the saint's image that granted the designer this new mission.

The face will presented in France, during the conference Adoratio 2015 (

Upon seeing the story on national television, the lawyer, researcher and writer from Ceará (Brazil), José Luis Lira, contacted Cicero. Former seminarian, member of Abrhagi (Brazilian Association of Hagiology), and a scholar of Catholic relics, Lira informed the designer of the existence of the preserved skull of Mary Magdalene. "That Mary Magdalene? I asked him, "says Cicero.

The answer was affirmative and interest in the reconstruction was immediate. From the contact, a connection between Sinop, Ceará and Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, a city in southern France began. The skull of Mary Magdalene is kept as a Catholic relic, in the shrine of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine's basilica. "I did not know neither this record or even the preserved skull actually existed", told Cicero.

Lira and Cicero contacted priest Florian Racine, which after initial reluctance got in touch with Monsignor Dominique Rey, Bishop of Freus and guardian of the relic. "We exchanged a few emails and reveal our intention, both scientific and historical, without disrespecting in any manner the Catholic belief and faith. They understood and sent us photos of the skull that made possible the reconstruction," said Cicero.

The face of Mary Magdalene will be presented to the world on 19 July this year, on the first day of the festivities organized by the basilica in honor of St. Mary Magdalene, the "Adoratio 2015" ( As with St. Anthony, the face will be revealed in an official event organized by the Catholic Church.

Is it actually Jesus' Mary Magdalene?

All the evidence, historical records and traditions point out that yes, this is the skull of Mary Magdalene mentioned in the Scriptures. The relic was recognized and visited, throughout history, by eight kings, four popes and evangelists who would later be recognized as saints.

History, which mixes narratives transcribed in the Bible with the tradition of southern France, points that after Pentecost (which according to Catholic belief is the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles of Jesus Christ), Mary Magdalene, as well as other subjects of Christ, left Palestine, fleeing persecution and helping spread the Catholic word. Along with Lazarus and Martha (her siblings), St. Maximin and St. Sidonius (the blind man healed by Christ), Mary Magdalene came to the South of France in a small vessel. Lazarus was the first bishop of Marseille, a major city in France. Maximino, former butler of Bethany house (family of Lazarus), was the first bishop of Provence and later lent his name to the city. The French tradition says that Mary Magdalene dedicated herself to spreading the teachings of Christ, following St. John the Evangelist for a while. For 30 years she lived in caves in the Alps and in the year 49 a.C. she received extreme unction, with her body kept in the Church Saint-Maximin-to-Sainte-Baume.

And there the remains of the preferred follower of Jesus rested for over 1200 years until being discovered by the Prince of Salerno and future King of Naples, Charles II, on September 9th, 1279. Skull gained status of Catholic relic in 1600, when Pope Clement VIII ordered the construction of an appropriate sarcophagus to house the bones of Mary Magdalene.

During the French Revolution (1789) the relics have endured hard times, marked by the presence of rebels and invaders, barely avoiding getting lost. Only in 1814 the temple would be restored and the relic with the head of Mary Magdalene was recovered.

Today the skull of Mary Magdalene is kept in a gold reliquary, shaped like a bust of a woman. The gold mask with its "face" opens, revealing the skull behind a glass case. Just like priest Racine lifted that mask, putting it aside to record the digital images of the ancient bones, Cicero will also remove a veil and reveal the face that once contemplated Christ.

Is it the prostitute?

According to Cicero, this was one of the greatest learning in this case. "I realized that prior to reproducing a story or passing something forward, we must try to know what it really is about" said the designer.

Like most people, Cicero knew Mary Magdalene as a prostitute that Christ saved from being stoned to death. "There is no account in the Bible that it was Magdalene" he said.

The confusion with the Magdalenes began in 591, with a sermon of Pope John Gregory the Great, who identified the three "women" listed in the passages of Jesus as the same person: Mary Magdalene. Besides that one in which Christ avoids her stoning, the other two passages deal with a Magdalene that had seven demons expelled from her body by Jesus, giving away all material property and to follow the Messiah afterwards; and another more emblematic passage, where Magdalene washes the feet of Jesus and dries it with her hair.

Nearly a thousand years later a papal encyclical clarified the confusion signed by Pope Gregory, still Magdalene was labeled as the prostitute of the Bible in many cultures.

In France she is Holy, recognized in the scriptures as the first person to see Christ after his resurrection. Even though her gospel was excluded from the Bible, Magdalene is considered an important figure in the history of Christianity.
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