NCSA Technology is Helping Unlock the Mystery of Medieval Graffiti

May 22, 2018

May 22, 2018 — Visitors to San Marco Basilica in Venice, Italy are likely to feel a sense of awe: the sheer mass of the thousand-year-old structure and the details of its ostentatious decoration are undeniably impressive. But Mia Trentin, a postdoctoral fellow with the Cyprus Institute, an international partner of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois, hasn’t spent years studying the soaring architecture and glittering mosaics of San Marco. Instead, she focuses on something many of us would barely notice: the graffiti. Trentin has found over 2,000 individual instances of graffiti at San Marco, in places high and low, hidden and obvious, dating from this century to nearly a millennium ago. While modern graffiti is often seen as destructive to public buildings, historical graffiti is a key to unlocking the past. With the help of NCSA’s advanced technology, Trentin can open doors to understanding what life was like in the Middle Ages.

In pursuit of advanced tools for storing, visualizing, and studying the graffiti data she’s collected, Trentin spent two months in spring 2018 at NCSA as part of a collaborative partnership between NCSA and the Cyprus Institute that furnishes postdoctoral researchers with joint positions involving both institutions. Trentin’s position unites the Science and Technology in Archaeology Center(STARC) at Cyprus with NCSA’s Culture and Society research theme. During Trentin’s stay, she worked with Luigi Marini of the Innovative Software and Data Analysis (ISDA) team, Donna Cox, Associate Director of R&E and Director of NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL), and Colter Wehmeier, a graduate student on the AVL team, to pair her ancient data with NCSA’s modern technology.

Graffiti may have been ubiquitous in medieval Europe, but if so, most instances suffered the same decay or destruction that their architectural canvases did. Now, Trentin says, nearly all enduring graffiti is on religious buildings, which in many cases had the dual advantages of stone construction and good caretaking. Church walls served as makeshift guest books, wishing wells and answering machines, as pilgrims left signs of their passing, requested assistance from the saints or gave thanks for answered prayers. Trentin observes that graffiti reveals historical attitudes in a way that more formal art and architecture do not, offering a “bottom-up” look at culture at particular moments in history. Trentin recalls tracing graffiti onto transparencies early in her career: “When you do that, you are in the same place that the original person was centuries ago, the point of your pen is doing the same thing—it’s a contact point” between the modern researcher and the past. Because medieval graffiti consists primarily of drawings, “it’s a sort of suggestion or game—try to guess what I was thinking in that moment.”

With help from NCSA, Trentin and others will have a better chance of guessing correctly. Wehmeier, an Illinois graduate student in Architecture with a focus on Digital Cultural Heritage, suggests that integrating Trentin’s data with Clowder—a versatile data management system developed at NCSA—was “the obvious answer” because of Clowder’s advantages when it comes to storage and access for humanities projects. Clowder will provide a unique database that Trentin and other researchers can use to further their investigations, storing both the graffiti images and the information surrounding them. “Clowder will also let [Trentin] define her own standard vocabulary and metadata definitions,” Marini adds, which will allow the user community to perform advanced, targeted searches of the data using their own metrics. Moreover, Clowder’s Web Service API enables the creation of a custom web interface “to visualize this information in Clowder in story-based and geospatial views.”

Wehmeier and the AVL are currently at work developing that interface. While Trentin is focused on the user experience for archaeologists, Wehmeier says, NCSA is considering “What’s the best way to represent this? What do we show and not show? How do we fit the ideas of people in the humanities into the technical framework that software projects have to fit into?” Right now, because location is so important to studies of graffiti, the AVL is focusing on adding an initial 2D “spatializing” of the searchable graffiti with top-down views of sites. “We’re not trying to create a singular vision,” he notes, so much as “trying to figure out what this [interface] looks like.” Features like panoramic views, 3D, and VR experiences are all being discussed as future possibilities for the project.

Virtual renderings of graffiti coupled with historical information about graffiti sites, Trentin believes, will enable researchers to immerse themselves in the context of graffiti without expensive travel, and better understand patterns displayed by countless pieces of graffiti that, in real life, are often difficult to access and not highly visible. “Visualization will make the difference,” in studying graffiti, Trentin says. And studying graffiti may well make the difference in understanding an unsung layer of medieval history.


Source: Katherine Kendig, NCSA

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Nvidia Debuts Turing Architecture, Focusing on Real-Time Ray Tracing

August 16, 2018

From the SIGGRAPH professional graphics conference in Vancouver this week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled Turing, the company's next-gen GPU platform that introduces new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and new Tenso Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Coding: The Power of L(o)osing Control

August 16, 2018

Exascale roadmaps, exascale projects and exascale lobbyists ask, on-again-off-again, for a fundamental rewrite of major code building blocks. Otherwise, so they claim, codes will not scale up. Naturally, some exascale pr Read more…

By Tobias Weinzierl

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum technology used. One idea is to mitigate noisiness and perh Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Super Problem Solving

You might think that tackling the world’s toughest problems is a job only for superheroes, but at special places such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supercomputers are the real heroes. Read more…

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum Read more…

By John Russell

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SLATE Update: Making Math Libraries Exascale-ready

August 9, 2018

Practically-speaking, achieving exascale computing requires enabling HPC software to effectively use accelerators – mostly GPUs at present – and that remain Read more…

By John Russell

Summertime in Washington: Some Unexpected Advanced Computing News

August 8, 2018

Summertime in Washington DC is known for its heat and humidity. That is why most people get away to either the mountains or the seashore and things slow down. H Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

NSF Invests $15 Million in Quantum STAQ

August 7, 2018

Quantum computing development is in full ascent as global backers aim to transcend the limitations of classical computing by leveraging the magical-seeming prop Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

By the Numbers: Cray Would Like Exascale to Be the Icing on the Cake

August 1, 2018

On its earnings call held for investors yesterday, Cray gave an accounting for its latest quarterly financials, offered future guidance and provided an update o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This