Roman Counter Culture: Time to Die

Fear not, gentle reader, this post will not be filled with foul murders, but with our first dice!

But first more counters and some highly scientific experiments.

You may remember this nice glass counter from last week…


Well, we were having some discussion about the difficulty for getting good definition on the edges when scanning these very dark-coloured counters, especially the dome-shaped ones where we’re losing the bottom edge of the image (we’ve also almost entirely lost the colour; this one is actually bottle green, but more on that issue at a later date).

Guy, John and I are testing the methodology of this project and working though any issues, so we decided that we’d do some experiments with different lighting to try to improve the definition in the images. First up was the torch app on my phone, followed by the whacking great anglepoise lamp that happened to be stowed on a shelf next to my work-spot and finally Glynn remembered that there was a fancy microscope lamp knocking about somewhere so that was retrieved and tested.


Randomly the mobile phone torch app seemed to be the best, mainly because the LED light is the whitest and so doesn’t cause colour distortions on the images. This is definitely a work in progress.

Anyway, aside from these experiments, we spent the morning scanning and recording counters. Here are a couple of mine made from animal bone and glass.

After lunch came the six-sided challenge that is dice.

This was a bit fiendish but actually really good fun and much of the potential fiendishness had already been worked through by Glynn and Michael when they devised the protocols.

Step 1: is the artefact a ‘standard’ dice. Do the spots on the opposing sides add up to 7?


Step 2: If ‘yes’ which of the 16 possible configurations of the spots do you have? (I know! Even on a ‘standard’ dice there are 16 possible configurations of spots!)


Step 3: Transfer the spot sequence onto the net (this is a representation of an unfolded dice).


Step 4: Decide upon a sequence for scanning the individual sides, starting with the ‘6’ side.

Step 5: Start scanning…and so on.


Look at this concentration. It’s legendary 🙂


So far so good except for the vaguaries of scanner default settings, issues of artefact-scanner-bed positoning, inexplicable disappearances, mysterious black lines, skin-of-the-teeth margins and so on. These are the real-life issues that anyone carrying out this task will come across, and for which we are trying to find solutions and work arounds.


This is great and despite the, sometimes, random issues that crop up, the images are great and the process does work well 😀

We’ll be working on more dice next week but this week we went from the LAARC down to London Wall Bar & Kitchen for the Museum of London’s Volunteer Party. These parties are always fun and they include the Marsh Awards for Museum of London Volunteers. The lovely Sue won Volunteer of the Year (Go Sue!), but we also have a surprise when John also won an award for Volunteer Team of the Year as part of the Sainsbury Archive Team. Yay John 😀

And just as a token of the Museum’s appreciation, volunteers were all given a cool Sherlock Holmes bag and a copy of the exhibition Catalogue. I has better go and see the exhibition 😀


More next time.


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