New Discovery: The Warren Field Pit Alignment On The Mid Winter Solstice


The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was “created” by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit alignment, recently excavated in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), provides a new contribution to this debate.... [Read More]



   VISTA Invited to Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2012


An exhibition on Submerged Archaeological Landscapes at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition 2012


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   Dell sponsor new render facility at the University of Birmingham


Matt Valentine of Dell UK (standing below right) below presents Martin Stringer of the College of Arts and Law (standing below left) with a Dell PowerEdge C6100 Rack Server - a high density server providing a considerable increase in the compute capacity of the VISTA centre it will be utilised for high-CPU-requirement render tasks that are often necessary for complex 3D visualisation.


Dell Sponsor New Render Facility


   VISTA-LBI Team Discover New Monument at Stonehenge

A new Henge is discovered at Stonehenge - History is set to be rewritten after an archaeology team led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria discovered a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The incredible find has been hailed by Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UK’s most important prehistoric structure.

The new henge was uncovered just two weeks into a three-year international study that forms part of the multi-million Euro international Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.The project aims to map 14 square kilometres of the Stonehenge Landscape using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, to recreate visually the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings and transform how we understand this unique landscape and its monuments.“This finding is remarkable,” Professor Gaffney said. “It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge. “People have tended to think that as Stonehenge reached its peak it was the paramount monument, existing in splendid isolation. “This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.”

The new “henge-like” Late Neolithic monument is believed to be contemporaneous to Stonehenge and appears to be on the same orientation as the World Heritage Site monument. It comprises a segmented ditch with opposed north-east/south-west entrances that are associated with internal pits that are up to one metre in diameter and could have held a free-standing, timber structure.

The project, which is supported by the landowner, the National Trust, and facilitated by English Heritage, has brought together the most sophisticated geophysics team ever to be engaged in a single archaeological project in Britain.

British partners are the University of Birmingham; the Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford; and the Department of Earth Science at the University of St Andrews. European partners include teams from Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Professor Gaffney, who this week won the Best Archaeological Book prize at the prestigious British Archaeological Awards for Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland, added: “Stonehenge is one of the most studied monuments on Earth but this demonstrates that there is still much more to be found.

”Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, adds: "This is just the beginning. We will now map this monument using an array of technologies that will allow us to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions. This marks a new departure for archaeologists and how they investigate the past."

Motorized Multi-Channel GPR in ActionMartin Papworth, of the National Trust, said: “The Hidden Landscapes project is providing cutting edge archaeological survey work that will greatly enhance understanding and improve conservation management for the National Trust on its Stonehenge Estate.”

Dr Christopher Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, comments: “The strategy that we are implementing within this project has provided a first glimpse of new and important information regarding the hidden past at Stonehenge. We aim to cover large areas around Stonehenge and we expect this to be the first of many significant discoveries.”

Dr Amanda Chadburn, Stonehenge archaeologist at English Heritage, said: "This new monument is part of a growing body of evidence which shows how important the summer and winter solstices were to the ancient peoples who built Stonehenge. The discovery is all the more remarkable given how much research there has been in the vicinity of Stonehenge, and emphasises the importance of continuing research within and around the World Heritage Site."

Paul Garwood, prehistorian at the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham, said “This discovery is of great importance for our understanding of the Stonehenge landscape in the 3rd millennium BC. Its location, a short distance from Stonehenge, and the fact that the two monuments were inter-visible, raises exciting new questions about the complex sacred landscape that existed around Stonehenge when the sarsen and bluestone monument was constructed.”

  1. The IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre is a division of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham. VISTA supports academic research and application development for spatial analysis, visualisation and imaging using state-of-the-art technology in one of the best-equipped archaeological visualisation laboratories in Europe. VISTA is involved in projects across the world and staff use the unparalleled opportunities provided for VISTA for research, postgraduate and professional training in archaeology, the humanities and associated sciences. Its director is Professor Vince Gaffney.
  2. The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology was founded in April 2010 and aims to create a pan-European network of archaeological scientists supporting interdisciplinary research programmes for the development of large-scale, non-destructive technologies for the discovery, documentation, visualisation and interpretation of Europe’s archaeological heritage. Its director is Professor Wolfgang Neubauer.
  3. The Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford uniquely integrates archaeological sciences, geography, environmental sciences, biological anthropology and forensic sciences in a single profoundly multidisciplinary department bridging the sciences and humanities.
  4. Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland by Vince Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith is published by the Council for British Archaeology.



   VISTA Awarded CIF Funding

VISTA received £235, 000 capital grant to enhance its research and teaching activities and to support major heritage projects that involve processing and modelling of 3D data within the expanding visualisation market of the Heritage sector. The award includes the following resources:

  • Conduit Software for ArcGIS and Maya, Mechdyne ArcGIS and Maya Conduit filters - Conduit lets users move instantly from the desktop to a virtual or high resolution digital prototyping environment with no data conversion and no resolution scaling limits. Without any changes to the desktop application it allows stereoscopic viewing of common GIS or modelling data with true depth perception and supports motion tracking and real-time changes in viewing perspective as the user moves within the VISTA virtual environment.
  • ESRI ArcServer - to support shared mapping services and applications across the Web.
  • Developmental Render Cluster Render Nodes and associated software - Aurora2 is an advanced Windows 2008 HPC cluster. Utilising 64 Cores (with 128 threads) and 128GB of physical RAM, the cluster is capable of undertaking most large scale compute tasks. In addition the cluster also possesses 8 high end nvidia GPU's to assist VISTA's animation and rendering output.
  • Leica C10 ScanStation 3D LaserScanner - the latest in the Leica range of terrestrial laser scanners. The scanner is faster and more accurate than its predecessors and has increased interoperability with existing survey workflows and equipment, moving terrestrial laser scanner further within the realm of landscape and building survey.
  • MALA Mirs system multi-channel GPR array - multi-channel ground penetrating radar (GPR) arrays allow the survey of large areas at increased sampling intervals, often at varying frequencies, resulting in the swift and detailed collection of large data volumes relating to buried features and surfaces. The increased resolution provides more accurate representations of sub-surface anomalies for imaging, modelling and visualisation purposes.
  Making Digital Models Work Harder - VISTA Receives IBM DCV Server Donation


IBM have donated a Deep Compute Visualisation server to VISTA to provide VISTA staff with access to the powerful facilities of the VISTA Labs anywhere in the world. IBM's DCV server enhances the graphical user interface and enables remote access to software applications. Its use of Scalable Visual Networking (SVN) to increase screen resolution and image size; and Remote Visual Networking (RVN) enables more accurate decisions to be made during analysis of complex data and supports for remote collaboration over low band-width networks.


  New VISTA Publication Receives Award


Europe's Lost World - the rediscovery of Doggerland
Authored by Vince Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith


Europe's Lost World

A panel of judges from the academic journal Antiquity awarded VISTA authors Andy Howard, Keith Challis, Mark Kincey and Chris Carey the BEN CULLEN PRIZE for their article 'Archaeological resource modelling in temperate river valleys: a case study from the Trent Valley, UK.' which appeared in Antiquity, 82, (318), 1040-1054. This book, which examines climate change in the past, will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of the North Sea Basin,from archaeologists, geomorphologists & climatologists, to the interested public.

[Buy at Amazon]



  IBM and VISTA - A New Partnership for Computing in the Arts at Birmingham.


Mike King (Vice President IBM Education Business) signed a memorandum of understanding to develop Arts computing at Birmingham. The partnership with IBM and the Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA) aims to promote high performance computing in the Arts and to promote the Centre as an international hub for computer-based research and education. The partnership will assist in the development of the new "Virtual Worlds" laboratory at the Centre and its most recent flagship project - the 3D digitisation of the Eton Myers collection of Egyptian fine art, one of the finest private collections of such material outside the Egypt or national museums. VISTA will be working with Eton to provide a web accessible 3D museum using this fabulous collection. The programme is supported by JISC. Michael King (Vice President IBM Education Industries) and Professor Vincent Gaffney (VISTA and Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer) with colleague sign the agreement to develop Arts computing at the University of Birmingham.



  VISTA Laser Scanning at St. Kilda


In autumn 2007 VISTA carried out a laser scan survey of two of the early structures on St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides IWC media. The results are now being aired as the television series 'Britain’s Lost World' starting on BBC1. The times of these programs are listed below. The show's worth watching as it is the only island to hold dual World Heritage site status for its natural environment and its unique history and was a very enjoyable place to have been stranded for a week.


Prog 1: Thursday 19 June 2008@ 21.00 (If LIVE football on Wednesday 25 June 2008):

PROG 2: Thursday 26 June 2008 @ 21.00 (If NO live football on Wednesday 25 June 2008):

PROG 2: Wednesday 25 June 2008 @ 21.00 PROG 3: Friday 27 June 2008 @ 19.30



  VISTA receive major Fakespace Equipment Donation


The Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA) have received a major equipment donation from Fakespace Systems ( a Mechdyne Division). The system uses 7 active infrared transmitters and cameras tied to a dedicated workstation to allow a user (wearing specially modified stereo glasses and Gamepad) to interact with complex 3D objects or worlds in an immersive manner which is far more natural and responsive than a traditional keyboard and mouse. This in conjunction with the VISTA 4x2m stereo PowerWall display, allows for incredibly accurate images to be displayed with none of the perspective and distortion issues associated with standard displays. In addition this large scale viewing technology facilitates group viewing/presentation and allows for an enhanced teaching experience for students. The donation is a major contribution to ensuring that the VISTA laboratories are amongst the best-equipped archaeological facilities in Europe.




Richard Cashmore (Fakespace) and Professor Vincent Gaffney (VISTA) inspect LIDAR terrain data using the new tracking system


  Mapping Doggerland


The Mesolithic Landscapes of the Southern North Sea Edited by Vince Gaffney, Kenneth Thomson and Simon Fitch Published by Archaeopress 12,000 years ago the area that now forms the southern North Sea was dry land: a vast plain populated by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. By 5,500 BC the entire area had disappeared beneath the sea as a consequence of rising sea levels. Until now, this unique landscape remained hidden from view and almost entirely unknown. The North Sea Palaeolandscape Project, funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, have mapped 23,000 km2 of this lost world using seismic data collected for mineral exploration. Mapping Doggerland demonstrates that the North Sea covers one of the largest and best preserved prehistoric landscapes in Europe. In mapping this exceptional landscape the project has begun to provide an insight into the historic impact of the last great phase of global warming experienced by modern man and to assess the significance of the massive loss of European land that occurred as a consequence of climate change. Visit the Project website.


MAPPING DOGGERLAND, the final report of the North Sea Palaeolandscapes Project was published on the 7th of December at a reception hosted by Professor Michael Cruise and with speeches by Mr Huw Edwards (PGS), Dr Barney Sloane (English Heritage/ALSF) and Dr Ian Oxley (English Heritage). The book can be ordered from Archaeopress



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