Monthly Archives: July 2015

Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – The final results

With the project coming to a close, results have to be written up. The versatility of the different assignments means that there are a number of conclusions that can be drawn for this project. These results range from the archaeological results of the underwater archaeology conducted to the more anthropological results of the Vietnamese shipbuilding research.

Blog 11 Vietnam 02

The visits to the different shipbuilding yards near Hoi-An helped in giving us an understanding of the maritime techniques used in Vietnam. This resulted in numerous drawings of ships as well as in giving the trainees extensive practice in the process of drawing these ships. These results are important for both the capacity building as well as to create a frame of reference for possible finds, and how to register these finds.

Blog 11 Vietnam 03

Furthemore, extensive practice and research with 3D-photogrammetry software was carried out. This way we were able to create 3D records of a number of boats, ceramic artefacts, and cannons located in Hoi-An and Hue.  These were usually objects of unknown origins and these 3D models can be used by experts to gain more information regarding these artefacts. Attempts are also being made at creating a 3D model of the site at Bai Ong which could be extremely useful for mapping and possibly even locating finds in the area. This modelling is still in progress.

As for the underwater archaeological surveys, a number of different results were achieved. First of all, we (re)located a number of potential archaeological sites, such as the stone anchor site, through diving surveys and interviews with local fishermen and divers. Also, numerous sites containing ceramic artefacts were located around the coastline of the Cu Lao Cham islands which can be useful for future research by the Vietnamese Institute of Archaeology.

Blog 11 Vietnam 04

Most importantly though was the discovery of the possible shipwreck site located in Bai Ong. This site contained a plethora of ceramic artefacts and could prove to be an important site for future research.  What we were able to find out about the site in a three day non-intrusive survey was this: the site consists of an area with broken pottery. Most of them are from one type of storage jars from the 16th to 17th century. The objects are caught in sand pockets and beneath rocks in the shallows of the shore of the Cham Islands. Other pottery found at the site– in smaller amounts – also has the same date.  The pottery that is surfacing the seabed is concentrated in a small area of about 20 by 25 metres. A corroded iron nail that was found on site might indicate the presence of a shipwreck. Hopefully wood is still preserved in the larger depressions between the rocks that are filled with sand. Further research has to confirm this. There were reports of wood being sighted at the site but we were unable to relocate this.

Blog 11 Vietnam 05

Blog 11 Vietnam 06

Blog 11 Vietnam 07

I hope everyone has enjoyed following the project through this blog and other sources, and keep following the maritime programme for more updates on the numerous projects that they have going on!

For the last time, greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – The last days of diving

With the project drawing to an end, Tuesday and Wednesday were our last days of diving. These last few days we tested our skills as (future) maritime archaeologists by letting the groups work individually at the Bai Ong site. It is important to note that this was the first time that many of us experienced an actual archaeological site underwater.

Blog 10 Vietnam 02

Blog 10 Vietnam 03

The site was set-up on Monday by one of our teams who placed down a permanent baseline which marked the beginning of our site. This baseline would from then on be our fixed point from which we would be able to map all of the research that we’d conduct on the site. This is an important aspect to avoid redundancy and prevent different teams from researching the same area. Most importantly though, these measurements can be used to recreate the locations of these artefacts comparative to each other. These comparisons play an important role in the interpretation of the site.

Blog 10 Vietnam 04

The earthenware on this site was mostly grouped in clusters of about multiple objects, with scores of individual pieces scattered throughout the site. It was therefore decided that we would work in 1 meter by 1 meter grids placed over these clusters and measured from the baseline to accurately map as many of these clusters as we could in the last few days. Specific objects were positioned through trilateration from the baseline as well.

Blog 10 Vietnam 05

With Approximately 4 people per team, each person had a specific role to make the process as streamlined as possible. With one person measuring the grid, one person describing the finds, someone to draw the grid and the location of the artefacts related to each other, and another person photographing the finds, the process of recording these grids took somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour.

Blog 10 Vietnam 06

These clusters consisted of a  number of interesting ceramics, with some pieces dating back to the 16th/17th century whereas the date of (most)other pieces is still unknown. We mapped and researched as many of these clusters as we could in the 3 days that we had left while also taking GPS-locations of certain clusters and fixed points. While we ourselves might not continue our research here, this information will be handed over to the Vietnamese institute of archaeology who might continue our research there in the future.

By the end of Wednesday, our last day of diving, we had researched a total of 8 grids. While this was a good start on researching the site, this also leaves plenty of (possible)future work for the Vietnamese institute of Archaeology, or other archaeological organisations planning any research on the Cham Islands in the future.

With the project coming to a closure, there is only one blog remaining. This last blog will be posted this weekend and will speak of the project’s conclusion.

Greetings from Hoi-An


Vietnam maritime archaeology project – The Cu Lao Cham shipwreck

By the end of the third week our surveys finally hit a breakthrough. While most of the artefacts so far were (likely) individual wash-ups or other objects that did not necessarily indicate the presence of a site, the objects found at our newest location are most likely part of a shipwreck and will therefore be the main focus of the rest of our project. This could be exciting news as this shipwreck was not documented anywhere and was therefore a surprise (yet expected) find.

This new location near Bai Lang was the place where we’d expect most of our finds and was one of our main locations in the first week. However, due to the touristic value of this beach and the accompanying presence of many speedboats, it was deemed too dangerous a location to dive for some of the more inexperienced divers and we were therefore forced to move to other locations around the island. By the end of week 3 our divers were deemed experienced enough to move to this location and this proved to be a worthwhile decision when on one of the first days at this site we found a number of large clusters of ceramic artefacts.

Blog 9 Vietnam 02

These ceramic artefacts are mainly grouped up in a small area (approximately 20×30 square meter) as opposed to being spread out along the entire coast which instantly made us suspicious of a shipwreck. When, after further surveying, a large number of these ceramic artefacts seemed to date back to the same period and were suspiciously similar to each-other we were almost certain that this was the location of a shipwreck that was worthy of further investigation.

Blog 9 Vietnam 03

Based on the ceramic finds at the site this shipwreck likely dates back to approximately the 16th century and was probably importing ceramics from the mainland of Vietnam (or possibly even a different country) to the Cham Islands when it sunk, either because of a storm or because of other reasons.

Blog 9 Vietnam 04

However, due to the fact that almost nothing is known about this shipwreck, further investigation is required. This started on Friday with the photographing and GPS-mapping of some of the more interesting clusters of ceramic artefacts, as well as surveying the area for signs of the actual ship. These surveys were carried out by both snorkelling as well as scuba diving due to the shallow nature of the site. However, due to the presence of large amounts of coral which would snag our baselines and measuring tapes it was decided that we would do a free-swim around the area as opposed to doing swim line searches.

Blog 9 Vietnam 05

The surveying of this area on Friday sets us up for properly grid based archaeological research of the artefacts in week 4 which should give us some more insight into how much earthenware remains in the area and increase our knowledge on what sort of shipwreck we actually encountered.

As always, greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – My Son special

An important aspect of the Vietnamese cultural heritage is the Cham (or Champa) period. The Cham people originally inhabited large parts of south-east Asia and Vietnam was no exception. One of their most important religious sites was the My Son temple complex. This is a series of Hindu temple complexes located near modern day Danang built by the Cham people between 400-1400 A.D.. While large parts of the complex were destroyed during the Vietnam war, a number of temples still remains.

My Son is a very popular site for tourists due to its inherent beauty and its notability as UNESCO world heritage site. Even outside of the tourist season the place has a lot of visitors and is a must see for people traveling through central Vietnam. It is therefore that a number of people from the project decided to visit this site on our day off, under guidance of a tour guide from the Vietnamese ministry of culture.

Blog 8 Vietnam 02

The site of My-Son holds so much value to the Cham basically due to a number of facts. First of all,  an important aspect of the Champ culture was its intangible heritage, which are their music, dances, and rituals. This type of heritage also plays an important role at the My Son site with a number of acts being performed at regular times such as dancing, singing, and musical performances. Due to the Champa people being spread over such a wide area at the height of their culture, these different intangible heritage aspects are present in multiple countries in this region.

Blog 8 Vietnam 03

There are a number of different buildings in this temple complex, build in different time periods. The 4 main buildings still standing are the Kalan, the Mandapa, the Kosagrha, and the Gopura. These 4 buildings all have different functions and meanings:

The Kalan, one of the most important buildings, is a sanctuary in which a deity houses. These sanctuaries are often “tower shaped” buildings constructed out of brick and play a major role in the ritual process of the Cham people.

Blog 8 Vietnam 04

The Mandapa Is not necessarily a functional building in itself, but more of a hallway leading to the main sanctuary/ritual building. While it is not a specifically interesting or important building by itself it still plays an important role in the ritual process.

The Kosagra is also known as the fire-house and is used as a storehouse for a deity’s valuables and other objects. It is therefore closely related to the Kalan.

Finally you have the Gopura. These are basically the buildings through which you enter a ritual site and therefor they play an aesthetically important role.

While there are a number of temples still standing in My Son, a large part of the complex has been partially destroyed. This is not due to natural erosion as one might expect however, but it is because the site was bombed during the Vietnam war. (Unexploded) bombs that were dropped here during this period of destruction are shown in some of the temples and are a permanent part of the exhibition.

Even though the site has largely been destroyed, it is still one of the major religious complexes in the region and shares a similar function as Angkor, even though it is not quite as famous.

If you want to learn more about this project, or any of the surrounding (UNESCO) sites then please follow us on facebook at:

Greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – Australian 3DMAPPR special

Today’s guest blog, written by Australian participant and trainer Ian McCan, is related to the use of 3D photogrammetry software and techniques. These techniques create a 3D image of an object by combining a number of photographs through a software programme (see also the blogs of the RCE dive team on the Oostvoornse meer: . This 3D object can then be rotated and send to people around the world as a means for research, for promotion purposes, or as a way to get the public involved. Ian McCan will now tell you more about the 3D photogrammetry project that he is involved with.

The 3DMAPPR (3D Maritime Archaeology Project – Perth Region) dates back to April 2014 and is a community-based project partly funded by an Austral-Asian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) Scholarship in order to financially support the first stage of  the program of shipwrecks site documentation, visualization and management. The main focuses of this starting step are:

(1) the development of a low-cost photogrammetry package intended to facilitate the (3D) recording of underwater cultural heritage in the Perth region

(2) the training of community members in underwater photogrammetric recording and image processing techniques.

Blog 7 Vietnam 02
A 3D photogrammetry example made by one of the VMAP teams, showing the programs ease of use

The longer-term objectives for this project are for the hardware/software package and 3D imagery results to be used as a solution for low-budget (archaeology)groups or volunteer organizations as a management tool for the continual monitoring of endangered and important archaeological and non-archaeological sites.

This would also provide the ground work for the future use of augmented reality technologies as part of new virtual shipwreck trail visualization and for the use of 3D printing technologies within museum displays. This project is therefore not only focused on its application in archaeology as it is conducted today, but also aims to help create the future of archaeology.

Blog 7 Vietnam 03

Despite a comprehensive knowledge of maritime sites in the Perth Metropolitan area, the current status and condition of many sites remains somewhat uncertain due to a lack of up to date management and monitoring. This is associated with several additional factors, including a scarcity of detailed documentation for many local sites; a lack of any facility or tool to monitor the causes, nature, and scale of changes to local sites and their immediate environments; and a reliance on the involvement of (often) amateurs and hobbyists, with accompanying pressure on time, money, and expertise. Given these issues and the considerable constraints and limitations inherent in traditional (manual) survey and recording techniques, there was a clear need for alternative approaches to be adopted and implemented if on-going management of the sites in the Perth area and beyond is to be both timely and effective. Necessarily, any such approach needs to meet several criteria in order to make it fit for purpose. This includes time and cost effectiveness; ability to utilize off-the-shelf hardware and software systems; capability of operating with minimal user intervention; and accuracy and repeatability.

The technical details

A detailed literature review and preliminary land-based and underwater testing indicates that multi-image 3D photogrammetry best meets the above requirements. Multi-image 3D photogrammetry (MIP) is a term that describes the use of large 2D image datasets to reconstruct the 3D geometry of an object or scene using Structure from Motion (SFM) and Dense Multi-View 3D Reconstruction (DMVR) techniques. While the use of photogrammetric techniques has a long history in the context of land-based natural and cultural heritage documentation, its wider adoption and adaptation to underwater conditions has been considerably delayed owing to a number of technical and practical constraints and high technical overheads.

Blog 7 Vietnam 04

While several of these issues – particularly those related to underwater conditions (e.g. water turbidity, poor visibility, light attenuation and refraction) – remain, the advances in low-cost computing, digital imaging and software design have facilitated the development of what are effectively multi-image photogrammetry solutions. These solutions offer considerable advantages over traditional techniques, including rapidity, objectivity and relative simplicity of implementation; suitability for capture of large and complex objects; high potential accuracy; ability to use inexpensive and highly portable equipment (such as GoPro cameras); captured images contain all data required to facilitate 3D reconstruction; and the ability to utilize legacy data, thereby facilitating reconstruction and comparison of data from successive surveys and/or archive sources.

There are a considerable number of open-source (the Bundler + PMVS2 + CMVS assembly), web-based (123D Catch, Hyper3D/Cubify3D) and stand-alone (Photoscan, Photomodeller Scanner) multi-image photogrammetry solutions available at the moment. Each of these solutions offers varying degrees of user input and control over the resulting dataset. However, for the purposes of the project, it has been decided to employ Photoscan Pro, due to it being somewhat of a de facto standard in the field of archaeological photogrammetric documentation, being employed in a number of terrestrial and (increasingly) underwater scenarios. Unlike competing packages, Photoscan Pro represents a unified solution that incorporates not only the standard image acquisition, image rectification/alignment, and geometry extraction processing pipeline, but also has geo-registration capabilities and the option to output digital elevation models (DEM) and orthophotography (Geometrically corrected aerial photographs). These functions make it a versatile package suited for the many different archaeological needs.

Ian McCan