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Jul 7, 2013

Project HERACLES : Fieldwork Part 2: 3D Laser Scanning , Finishing Gravity, and the Lady Beekeeper

Our lean mean FARO scanner
3D Laser Scanning: what is it and what can you do with that? A 3D scanner basically takes 100,000 or more samples per second of an (at best stationary) object using laser range-finding, providing a point cloud that can render a highly accurate reconstruction (especially with the addition of a camera). Our new scanner from FARO is smaller-faster-better (and lighter - it can be taken as a carry-on, for example, on an airplane). These types of (active) scans are most useful for reconstructions and as an aid to modeling - the uses are varied, ranging from architectural planning to crime scene investigations (heavily alluded to in Primary Fault) to archeological site investigations (featured in Shaky Ground). Here, for example, one of our published scans from Roman ruins in the middle of Cologne.

I reported last time about our cleaning efforts prior to scanning - absolutely essential for getting a good scan. Luckily the east wall in Tiryns and the north wall in Midea (no direct links to either of the sites - but these links are very useful for background information) were cleaned for us by the crews at both sites for which we are tremendously grateful (thanks to Frau Dr. Demakopoulou, former archeological director at Midea and Frau Dr. Papadimitriou, Eforia of the Argolis, also participants in the HERACLES project, for their organizational help).
The brawny man on the right made the Tiryns east wall pretty for scanning.

 The scanning crew Klaus-G. Hinzen and Gregor Schweppe (also the passive seismic crew - geoscientists must be flexible, versatile and photogenic - WORD!) have made a plan of attack that includes the use of opaque white balls on broomsticks (geophysicists are also resourceful!) placed between the fallen rocks on the wall(s). The balls allow near-perfect alignment of the side-by-side scans. 

Balls on broomsticks amid a Bronze Age Cyclopean wall
 The new scanner needs all of 10 minutes to do a complete 360 degree color scan and even less for black and white. There is barely enough time between scans for the crew to enjoy the spectacular view from Midea. 
A momentary respite from the heat and wind to cool the scanner

Heat and wind - significant wind - conspire to slow down and even stop the measurements, especially when the scanner begins to overheat (at around 60 degrees Celsius). But the car air-conditioner serves as a quick cooler-downer (creativity!), the only casualty being Gregor's temporarily frozen hands.

Meanwile, the gravity crew, Evi Seferou and I, finished with traipsing around the Midea acropolis, concentrate on taking gravity measurements at the bottom of the hill - gaining profiles from different directions. After finishing the northernmost reach of our N-S profile, we start out on an E-W dirt road that looks promising because it seems less frequented by vehicles. 

Before we'd gone a scant kilometer, we encountered the end of the road and the beekeepers, a Greek giagiĆ” (and the last in the series) and her husband clad in thick white linen/cotton suits and wide-brimmed hats with face-protecting nets. Evi and I - standing just a few meters from the first of the bee boxes - are wearing black T-shirts. The bee man points at us (and the bees who are making passes at us) and tells us bees hate black. While we hurriedly take our last measurement, the man asks us if we are the ones who have come to count the bees. Instantly distracted (not that difficult, to be honest), I ask (through my translator Evi, of course), so how do you count bees? Turns out that you don't count the bees, you count the boxes - and there are approximately 10,000 bees in a box.

The Greek bee lady and a few of her bees
We adjourn just after and follow the beekeepers to their house in the village of Midea to purchase some of the honey. Because it is a Greek grandmother we are commanded to drink Fanta (you are much too thin! Drink! Drink!) and taste the honey (fabulous). 

The bee lady proceeds to show us pictures of her children (and grandchildren) and asks me questions in Greek, first in a very slow cadence and then louder and more insistent - the international solution to speaking to someone in a language they don't comprehend. Evi is trying not to pee her pants in laughter, especially as she's yelling back answers to the questions - repeatedly - while I try to smile nicely and look like I know what the hell is going on (all of the rapid conversation is not being translated to me - for which I'm grateful, I think). "Is she married!? Does she have any children!?" "Yes!" "She has a son!" And the Greek grandfather meanwhile is mumbling epithets ranging from the mismanagement by the government of everything to the end of civilization as we know it. After we pay for the honey and leave, I realize this is one of those moments that will live with me forever. And if I can't find a way to fit that into a story some way somehow, then I'm not much of a writer, am I?

The guards at Midea

The guards at Tiryns
A few days later, and it's already time to leave. We bid farewell to the environs, to the heat, to the culture, and to the helpful guards at both Midea and Tiryns

A free Greek spirit out for a stroll on Midea

A Helen of Troy contest? We never found out.

Fredocino: the only antidote to the searing Greek heat