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M. Valério and S. Ferrara


Keywords: Rebus, acrophony, phonetisation, script formation

Rebus and acrophony are crucial in the development of ancient invented scripts from Mesopotamia (cuneiform), China, Mesoamerica (Maya), Egypt, and scripts which may have been created through exposure to literate cultures (Anatolian Hieroglyphic and Nahuatl). Yet, these two linguistic mechanisms have been understudied from a terminological, contextual and comparative perspective. This article aims to address issues regarding their definition, development and application in script formation. The scope of our study is all attested writing systems that are largely iconic in their sign repertoire, and whose phonetic values were generated anew based on an underlying language (hence ‘invented’). This allows us to chart how writing systems are created ex novo and what trajectories of development are put into practice when phonetisation takes place. We show some reliable patterns of universal mechanisms, observable from a comparative perspective. We also demonstrate that these patterns attest to a verifiable degree of phonological awareness that ties the process of phonetisation to the path to script formation. We further highlight that the tendencies discerned from deciphered writing systems provide ways to test hypotheses in the study of iconic writing systems which are undeciphered, such as the Indus Valley script and the Rongorongo of Easter Island.


Reference: Miguel Valério & Silvia Ferrara (2020) Rebus and acrophony in invented writing, Writing Systems Research, DOI: 10.1080/17586801.2020.1724239

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L. Lastilla, R. Ravanelli, M. Valério, and S. Ferrara

Keywords: 3D modelling, Laser scanning, Structured light, Precise 3D digitization, Rongorongo inscriptions

Abstract. Rongorongo is an undeciphered script inscribed on wooden objects from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in the Pacific Ocean. The existing editions of the inscriptions, and their widespread locations in museums and archives all over the world today constitute a serious obstacle to any objective paleographical assessment. Thus, with a view to a potential decipherment, creating 3D models of the available corpus is of crucial importance, and one of the objectives of the ERC INSCRIBE project, based at the University of Bologna with Professor S. Ferrara as Principal Investigator. In this preliminary work, we present the results of the 3D digitization of the Mamari tablet, one of the longest inscriptions in Rongorongo, housed in the Museum Archives of the Congregazione dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria in Rome. The tablet is made of wood, with a shiny reflecting surface, characterized by a mainly dark texture. The 3D modelling was carried out with the ScanRider 1.2 laser scanner manufactured by VGER, based on Structured Light technology, taking care to ensure the legibility of each sign while preserving the overall shape of the object as precisely as possible. To overcome the difficulties inherent in the object’s complex fabric, the Mamari tablet was acquired in separate sections (joined together during processing through specific markers), thus managing to optimize the optical parameters of the laser scanner, such as the exposure of the camera and the depth of field of the projector. Furthermore, an evaluation of the 3D reconstruction precision was also carried out, highlighting a precision of few hundredths of millimeters, in agreement with the claimed nominal standard deviation. In addition to the 3D model produced, one of the main results of this endeavor was the definition of a successful method to scan such complex objects, which will be replicated to finalize the complete 3D modelling of the whole Rongorongo corpus of inscriptions.


Full reference: Lastilla, L., Ravanelli, R., Valério, M., and Ferrara, S.: 3D MODELLING OF THE MAMARI TABLET FROM THE RONGORONGO CORPUS: ACQUISITION, PROCESSING ISSUES, AND OUTCOMES, Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W18, 85–89,, 2019.

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L. Lastilla, R. Ravanelli, and S. Ferrara


Keywords: 3D Modeling, Close-range Photogrammetry, Laser Scanner, Focus Stacking, Small Inscribed Objects

Abstract. 3D modelling of inscribed archaeological finds (such as tablets or small objects) has to consider issues related to the correct acquisition and reading of ancient inscriptions, whose size and degree of conservation may vary greatly, in order to guarantee the needed requirements for visual inspection and analysis of the signs. In this work, photogrammetry and laser scanning were tested in order to find the optimal sensors and settings, useful to the complete 3D reconstruction of such inscribed archaeological finds, paying specific attention to the final geometric accuracy and operative feasibility in terms of required sensors and necessary time. Several 3D modelling tests were thus carried out on four replicas of inscribed objects, which are characterized by different size, material and epigraphic peculiarities. Specifically, in relation to photogrammetry, different cameras and lenses were used and a robust acquisition setup, able to guarantee a correct and automatic alignment of images during the photogrammetric process, was identified. The focus stacking technique was also investigated. The Canon EOS 1200D camera equipped with prime lenses and iPad camera showed respectively the best and the worst accuracy. From an overall geometric point of view, 50 mm and 100 mm lenses achieved very similar results, but the reconstruction of the smallest details with the 50 mm lens was not appropriate. On the other hand, the acquisition time for the 50 mm lens was considerably lower than the 100 mm one. In relation to laser scanning, the ScanRider 1.2 model was used. The 3D models produced (in less time than using photogrammetry) clearly highlight how this scanner is able to reconstruct even the high frequencies with high resolution. However, the models in this case are not provided with texture. For these reasons, a robust procedure for integrating the texture of photogrammetry models with the mesh of laser scanning models was also carried out.

Full reference: Lastilla, L., Ravanelli, R., and Ferrara, S.: 3D HIGH-QUALITY MODELING OF SMALL AND COMPLEX ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSCRIBED OBJECTS: RELEVANT ISSUES AND PROPOSED METHODOLOGY, Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W11, 699-706,, 2019.

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