VHN Ireland 2018

Patricia presented our poster “The Megalithic Art Analysis Project: Adapting the Xbox Kinect for Archaeological Fieldwork” at the 2018 edition of VHN Ireland, at the Royal Irish Academy.

MAAP Annotate: When Archaeology meets Augmented Reality for Annotation of Megalithic Art

We recently had our paper “MAAP Annotate: When Archaeology meets Augmented Reality for Annotation of Megalithic Art” accepted at VSMM 2017, the 23rd IEEE conference on Virtual Systems and MultiMedia. The paper describes our annotation platform, its implementation and our usability study.

You can get more details about our work:

  • on the GitHub page of the project where you can find the code of our platform (MAAP Annotate)
  • on a Youtube video showing what users see in the Microsoft Hololens (Augmented Reality Head mounted device) when they use our application
  • in the paper itself

Anthony presented the paper to a very interested audience of about 80 academics and professionals:

Fourknocks: part deux

fourknocks sign

On August 10, four of us returned to the first passage tomb we recorded as a group, Fourknocks. Our previous visit was very experimental and we were unsure of the best lighting and how to record each stone. This was reflected in our early models. So upon our return, we had a game plan; to scan every stone with two different types of lighting, front-facing and grazed. This was to view the difference between casting very little shadow and casting more shadow in order to better view the art. We are hoping this will create even more detailed 3D models from the Kinect. We also took detailed photographs of each stone using the different lighting techniques.

Example of grazed lighting set up on stone 7
stone 7 grazed

Northern Ireland

On July 24, the archaeologists on the project ventured to Northern Ireland to visit two passage tombs containing megalithic art, Knockmany and Sess Kilgreen. Unfortunately, the landowner of Sess Kilgreen was not home, so we were unable to access the site. However, we made arrangements with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to gain access to Knockmany.

After a short hike, we reached the summit of Knockmany. It offers some breathtaking views of the area. Though it detracts from the experience of a passage tomb, it was excellent to have the protective chamber. The art is better preserved than many of the other passage tombs we have visited where the stones are exposed to the elements. It took us less than half an hour to complete our recordings of the nine stones with featuring art, so our skill has improved. We can’t wait to see the models of these, the art can be seen so well in just the photos!

View of the protective covering
protective chamber

Stone C11

Stone C9

Stone C10

Stone C7

Stone C6

Stone C5

Excavation reports:
Collins, A.E.P. and Waterman, D.M., 1952. Knockmany Chambered Grave, Co. Tyrone. Ulster Journal of Archaeology, pp.26-30.

Collins, A.E.P. and Meek, H.A., 1960. Knockmany chambered cairn, Co. Tyrone. Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 23, pp.2-8.

Notes on visiting Knockmany:
Knockmany is enclosed in a protective building and it is normally locked to the public. There is more information available on the Discover Northern Ireland site.

Notes on visiting Sess Kilgreen
Sess Kilgreen is on private land and requires the owner’s permission to access. It has been reported recently that it is fairly overgrown and covered, so the art may no longer be visible.

Carrowmore and Carrowkeel


On Thursday, July 20, the two archaeologists loaded up a small rental car with equipment and drove off to Sligo to visit the megalithic art at Carrowmore and Carrowkeel. The art on the central monument at Carrowmore, Listoghil, had been mentioned as early as 1883; however, its existence was doubted until it was recognised in 1993 from a photograph.

Of course, it was raining during our visit and we spent most of our time trying to cover the equipment with umbrellas or plastic to make sure it was safe. We were able to record the capstone of the monument during a break in the rain. Unfortunately, it was too difficult for us to reach the interior of the orthostat featuring art and properly hold the Kinect, so we had to move on to the next site.

We arrived at Carrowkeel, and first did some scouting around to figure out the best path to forge to the top to visit Cairn B. It is located on a different outcrop than the main cluster of tombs that are easily accessible. We decided on the quickest—and least possibility of getting lost—option of working our way directly up the cliff. It was a bit of a scramble at first. Then we had to work our way through some dense vegetation over our heads, and keep our ankles out of bog holes. Eventually, we made it to the top and went straight to work, because we did not want to have to hike back down in the storm we could see gathering in the distance.

This cairn is rather small inside, similar to Mound of the Hostages at Tara. It has some loose stones in the interior that have been messed with, one looks like it may have been a sill stone. If you look for images on the internet you can see these configured at one point as a bench. They were pretty strewn about on our visit. One of these supposedly has a small piece of art on it, but we were unable to identify it and it may have been rubbed off. For orthostat 5, we took a few photos with the light in different positions to figure out which angle may be best to record. Then, set up and recorded orthostat 5, even making two recordings of it to be sure we had a backup (earlier we had some computer issues where files weren’t saving properly). Then we hurried back down the cliff in the rain before the rougher part of the storm approached.

This is where we share the bad news. While at our bed and breakfast, we started to generate the 3D models to see if we could identify the art on the stones. Only to be gutted when we could not find the Carrowkeel folder in Results folder or after completing a search from the terminal. It did not save! (This is a glitch we are trying to recreate in the office and correct.) We checked the weather and thought about possibly hiking up again, but it would not have been safe. We could not even see Carrowkeel through the storm. At the very least, we have photos of the art on orthostat 5 and a photogrammetric model (seen below).

Listoghil (the art is on the front of the capstone)

Knocknarea from Carrowmore

A selfie (Jordan and Patricia) to commemorate surviving the hike
jordan and patricia

Entrance to Carrowkeel Cairn B
Cairn B

The loose stones in Cairn B
loose stones

One of the lighting angle tests where the art is visible
art on orthostat 5

One of the more fun lighting angles made the art look like a frog face
orthostat 5 light

Jordan crawling out of the small entrance to Cairn B

Carrowkeel orthostat 5 art, model from photogrammetry
orthostat 5

Excavation reports:
Burenhult, G., 1980. The Archaeological Excavations at Carrowmore Co. Sligo, Ireland: Excavations Seasons: 1977-79. G. Burenhults förlag (IS), Burenhult, G..

Macalister, R.A.S., Armstrong, E.C.R. and Praeger, R.L., 1911. Report on the exploration of Bronze-Age carns on Carrowkeel Mountain, Co. Sligo. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, 29, pp.311-347.

Information on the art:
Hensey, R. and Robin, G., 2011. MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: NEW RECORDINGS OF MEGALITHIC ART IN NORTH‐WEST IRELAND. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 30(2), pp.109-130.

Notes on visiting Carrowmore:
Carrowmore is operated by the OPW and has a visitor centre. It is located just off the main road and is around €5 to enter. More information can be found on their site.

Notes on visiting Carrowkeel:
Some of the cairns of the Carrowkeel complex are easy to access via a short hike. However, Cairn B is quite difficult to get to, and we cannot recommend visiting it for safety reasons. There are no trails to this cairn and there are areas where you are on steep and unsteady ground as well as walking through plants over your head.


Wednesday, July 19, the whole team paid a visit to Knockroe passage tomb. We were fortunate enough to have the best guide, Prof. Muiris O’Sullivan, who excavated the site in the early 90s. It was fascinating to hear his anecdotes on the excavation and the discovery of the megalithic art. He told us the history of the area and the geology of the stones used to build Knockroe. We learned that when he first discovered the tomb it was covered by trees and had a lane passing through it. Muiris also pointed out niches where cremated bones and artefacts such as Carrowkeel ware were found within the tomb.

Knockroe has some wonderfully preserved art within its chambers; however, the kerbstones are falling victim to the elements and the art is not always visible. Sadly, there was even an incident of vandalism on one of the stones in the past 2 years. So please respect the art, some of the stones do not have easily visible art without the help of a camera etc.

Group selfie with Muiris
knockroe group

The eastern chamber
knockroe east

Johanna showing Muiris the work she’s been doing on the Hololens
Muiris and Johanna

Marta on protect-the-laptop duty
marta umbrella

Recording the art in the western chamber
recording west

Theo guiding the Kinect in the western passage
theo kinect

Example of the megalithic art in the western chamber
west art

Excavation report:
O’Sullivan, M., 1993. Recent investigations at Knockroe passage tomb. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, pp.5-18.

Notes on visiting Knockroe:
The location is on Google maps and is easily accessible from the road. It is an OPW site located near a private farm, so please be respectful to the neighbors.

Mound of the Hostages

Monday, July 10, the two archaeologists on the team ventured off on their own to visit the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, a.k.a. the Hill of Tara. Located at Tara is a passage tomb with the unforgettable name the Mound of the Hostages (Dumha na nGiall). The interior of this tomb has one orthostat in the left of the short passage that features megalithic art.

Using the Kinect to scan the stone
recording tara

3D models from the photogrammetry taken to use as a comparison for the model generated by the Kinect algorithm:

tara photo mesh

tara 3d model

Excavation report:
O’Sullivan, M., Herity, M., Mattenberger, U. & University College Dublin. School of Archaeology 2005, Duma na nGiall: the Mound of the Hostages, Tara, Wordwell, Dublin;Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Notes on visiting Tara:
The site is open to the public year round. The visitor centre is open Mid May – Mid September: Daily 10.00 – 18.00 with last admission 1 hour before closing. The interior of the tomb is not open. But you are able to view the stone from the gate at the tomb’s entrance.
Thank you OPW for allowing us access.


team hags chair

July 4-5, the team went to Loughcrew Co Meath to record the numerous stones featuring megalithic art located on Carnbane East and Carnbane West.

For more photos of the trip and some fun gifs, check out our Instagram.

Day 1:

We started with scanning the stones in the back of Cairn T located on Carnbane East. It was of course raining, so this made the most sense as we could be inside and keep the equipment dry. Breaks were taken in between scanning certain stones so that people visiting the site would be able to enter and experience the art without us in their way.

During one of these breaks the rain lightened up and we decided not to waste any time and to attempt scanning Cairn V using umbrellas and waterproof jackets to shelter the equipment. Of course towards the end of the day, as we were finishing up Cairn T, the rain finally stopped and we saw the light of the sun.

Recording Cairn V in the rain
cairn v

Johanna on the laptop
johanna laptop

Theo using the Kinect to scan the art in Cairn T
theo kinect

Recording Cairn U
cairn u

Some of the beautiful art from Cairn T:

Stone C14
stone c 14

Stone C8
stone c 8

Roof Stone Cell 2
cell 2 roof

Day 2:

We woke up early, and after receiving the landowner’s permission ventured up Carnbane West. Unfortunately, we did not receive the key to enter Cairn L, but hope to visit in the future to record the beautiful art located inside. As with the exposed cairns on Carnbane East, we were only able to view the art on certain stones, as most have sadly eroded or been covered by vegetation.

Recording Cairn H
cairn h

Cairn L (sadly we did not have access to the key on this trip, but we hope to return!
cairn L

Recording Cairn F
cairn F

Cairn I
cairn i

Sadly many of the stones that are exposed to the elements look like this, but there is beautiful art under there. This is stone C4 from Cairn I.
stone c4

Cairn I Stone R2
stone R2

Sill stone from Cairn H
cairn h sill

Notes on visiting Loughcrew:
Carnbane East is open to the public and Cairn T is open with supervision by the OPW during the tourist season (25th May – 30th August : Daily 10.00 – 18.00). Last admission to Cairn T is 45 minutes before closing.

Please be sure to obtain the landowner’s permission before entering the land to access Carnbane West. Your best bet is to contact the OPW.


seefin front

The path to this tomb is not clearly marked out, and the hike to the top is a steep 30-45 minutes. But it is quite worth it. Sadly, the tomb has collapsed in at the roof, and as a result the interior stones are covered in lichen and moss. This represented a recording challenge for us, the passage is a very narrow one and is of course where the art is located.

To properly scan with the Kinect we need to be around 50cm away from an object. To attempt this we decided to scan the art at an angle as there was a slight recess between orthostats where we could position the Kinect farther away. This required one of us to crouch within the passage holding the LED light in place and then moving the Kinect up and down the stone to try and collect data.

Our first view of Seefin

It is very difficult to fit through the entrance
seefin entrance

The narrow passage
seefin passage

The hole in the roof
seefin roof

Another view looking into the tomb from the roof
seefin interior

Some of the art towards the bottom of stone R4
seefin art

Excavation Report:
Macalister, R.A.S., 1932. A Burial Carn on Seefin Mountain, Co. Wicklow. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 2(2), pp.153-157.

Notes on visiting Seefin:
This is publicly accessible, though it is difficult to find the path up the hill.
Please be careful not to further damage the artwork. The passage is very narrow and the art has been worn down by visitors rubbing against the stones. The easiest access to the interior is through the hole in the roof.


On Tuesday, June 13, we visited Baltinglass passage tomb in County Wicklow after obtaining the landowner’s permission. It was quite a hike to get to, but we found our way through gorse, nettles, and shoulder-high ferns. This tomb was in bad shape prior to its excavation in the 1930’s, and as it was left exposed to the elements following excavation, it continued to weather. Sadly, the art on this tomb may have been lost to the ages. We attempted to record what we thought may be the art on stone J, and then we recorded what may have been stone H. However, we were unable to locate the art on any of these stones with the naked eye and using our hands to feel for them. The remaining  four stones that display megalithic art were so badly weathered or overgrown that it was impossible to locate the art.

Look at these views!mountain view

Chamber I
chamber 1

Chamber II
chamber 2

The Stones:

Stone J that should have artwork on it somewhere…
stone J

Recording stone Jrec stone J

Fairly certain this is stone F, we would need to cut back the plants and possibly dig it out to find any art…hopefully it is being better preserved under the cover…
stone F

We made an educated guess that this was stone H. These kerbs are being taken over by moss and other organic material so it was difficult to determine.
stone H

But we thought it was worth an attempt to record it, since we made the hike.rec stone H

We also recorded the entire interior of Chamber I
int chamber 1

Excavation Report:
Walshe, P.T. and O’Connor, P., 1940. The excavation of a burial cairn on Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, 46, pp.221-236.

Notes on visiting Baltinglass
This is private land, you must obtain the owner’s permission prior to accessing.
There are cattle and sheep in the area so be careful and avoid the animals.