Old Stones and New Technologies: Computer Vision and Medieval Walls

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Humanities Writ Large

Professor Caroline Bruzelius (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) and Professor Carlo Tomasi (Computer Science) led a team of Duke undergraduate students on a research trip to Naples over Spring break. They used the opportunity to test a new data capture system for use with medieval masonry. They worked primarily in the church of San Lorenzo, a Franciscan basilica in the heart of medieval Naples.

The students are experimenting with an analytic system for the study of historic buildings through pattern recognition, data mining, and texture analysis. Their research works with computational analytics to examine the shapes, textures, materials, sizes, and colors of the stones used in medieval structures in order to extract information on the technology of stonecutting, and possibly identify the work of individual masons (tool marks are like signatures), as well as potentially provide educated estimates on the size of the labor force.

The undergraduate team has been invited by Professor Carlo Ebanista of the University of Molise (Campobasso) to provide their expertise on the analysis of chisel marks as part of an on-going research project in the Catacombs of San Gennaro in Naples. While on-site this summer, they will be able to co-ordinate chisel marks with the gradual expansion of the catacombs between the 3rd and 6th centuries c.e. This exciting initiative will involve Duke students as part of a graduate-level research team working in Naples.

Referenced People

Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art and Art History
Professor of Computer Science