Since 2015 and thanks to funding from two earlier collaborative research grants, I have been building 3D models of selected ancient Egyptian coffins from the Egyptian collection housed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. This category of artefacts is central for the study and understanding of the ancient Egyptian funerary religion, literature and iconography. Coffins were elite items for protecting a mummy and enabling the deceased’s soul to travel in the netherworld and therefore they were richly decorated inside and outside by scribes and artists of the time.

With the help of my GSR Kea Johnston, we have built five models of different kinds of coffins, four in painted wood and one in stone. One thread of our current work involves producing metadata for these coffins, including the translation, transcription of the hieroglyphic text, bibliography, textual variants, museological data, provenance, etc., which will constitute “annotations” on the 3D models. This proposal, however, has a different goal: enabling broader dissemination of the models, both for the international Egyptology community and for the public at large through a partnership with Research IT and the Hearst Museum.

For the Egyptology community, I will develop a website that publishes high resolution versions of the 3D models already available, using the open-source X3DOM viewer, which allows users to interact with 3D models within a browser without installing additional plugins. This website will also publish the annotations and other structured metadata about each coffin, to enable searching and browsing by various parameters. The value of this public database will increase as my team and I develop additional models. It will also serve as an example for discussion at an international conference on digital humanities and Egyptology that I have recently proposed to the NEH with the goal of improving collaboration and data sharing between Egyptological projects.

For broader outreach and engagement, I will partner with Research IT and the Hearst Museum to convert my current coffin models into interactive 3D content for the new Hearst visualization environment. When the Hearst Museum of Anthropology reopens this spring, it will unveil a new immersive 3D environment that is designed to be part of a statewide network that documents archaeological sites that are at risk or have already been destroyed. Through this grant, my graduate student assistant, Kea Johnston, will work out a process for adapting my existing 3D models into a format compatible with the Hearst visualization environment using the Unity game engine, and will convert the five existing models. 

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