I never thought that while on an archeology dig in the Loch Lomond area I’d be using clever computing power for recording and research. I use similar technologies at work and my trip to Loch Lomond was supposed to be something different, a change of pace so to speak. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised when the ACCORD project came out to meet our group and introduce photogrammetry.
Our introduction to the program was from Project partners Dr. Stuart Jeffrey and Dr. Mhairi Maxwell. Over the summer of 2014 the ACCORD team have been traveling across Scotland to engage local communities with photogrammetry and other 3D visualization techniques. Without a doubt, their visit was the highlight of my trip.
The technology itself is relatively straightforward to use. Find something you want to model, take a bunch of pictures, and use some software to stitch it all together into a 3D model (we used Agisoft Photoscan). Now there is more to it than that, but that’s the process in a nutshell.
Our original intent was to reproduce only the dig site on Tarbet Isle, north Loch Lomond. However, after seeing how the process worked I asked if they’d be willing to help me do the MacFarlane stones south along the shoreline in Luss. I really wanted to be able to capture and share that piece of our history.
If you ever visit the church you might miss the stones if you’re not looking up. My first time there, I walked completely around the church looking for them not realizing I had walked under them twice. They’re situated in the north wall and sit probably around 10 – 12’ feet in the air.
Little is known about these stones. Our best source of information comes from Sir William Fraser in his book The Chiefs of Colquhoun and Their Country, Vol 2 (1869).
“The present church of Luss was built entirely at the expense of Sir James Colquhoun of Luss in the year 1771 and is seated for 500 persons. It stands at the distance of only a few feet from the old church of which a part of the wall of the chancel still remains at the north side of the present church. The spot on which it is built formed part of the churchyard of the old church. The first church of Luss after the Reformation stood on the same site as the old. It was what is called a ‘theekit’ church having been covered with thatch according to the practice of the times. The present church encloses a portion of the ground on which was the vault or place of interment of the Macfarlanes of Arrochar. Of this vault the only fragment that now remains is a stone which originally formed part of it and which has been built into the north wall of the present church It bears the following inscription:
HERE IS THE PLACE OF BVRIAL
APPOINTIT FOR THE LAIRD
OF AROQVHAR BUILDIT BE
JHONE MACFARLAN LAIRD
EFTER . DEATHE .
REMAINIS . VERTEW .
MEMENTO . MORI .
J . M . 1612 .
The building that we see today was built in 1875 and is the 3rd church to occupy the site after the stones were carved. However, there has been a church on the site since 510 A.D.There’s little doubt that this land was sacred to the MacFarlanes even after it passed to into the care of the Colquhouns.
In the 400 years since the stones were carved, time has taken a toll. Much of the text in the middle stone is now erased and what remains is hard to read. In another 400 it’s doubtful that the stones will be legible at all, if they still exist.
Using the techniques the ACCORD program is promoting, we now have a high quality 3D model of the stones that can persist indefinitely. This next image shows the model. Notice how it’s composed of triangles. In modeling terms, we call these polygons. The more polygons you have the better the detail. This particular model contains about 10.2 million polygons (That’s remarkable!). Polygons by themselves create form and detail, but you need texture if you want the color and realism.
This image shows the model once the texture (coloring) has been applied.
I really like how it’s captured the lichens and moss. It truly is quite incredible.
Once the model has been created, I sent it to my local 3D printer company and had them print a 4’ copy. Here you can see it in my hand. The precision of the print is really impressive. There’s even a bit of green moss up on the bones.
I now feel as if we’ve preserved this small piece of our heritage. It could be 100 or 1000 years from now and someone will be able to reproduce the MacFarlane stones with high quality. The model exceeds the resolution of today’s printers, but I’m sure tomorrow’s printers will even be better.
I haven’t forgotten about the model for Tarbet Isle, however the processing requirements are quite large and it will take time to get right. Stay tuned!