Nefertiti Hack
February 22, 2016 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Artists Covertly Scan Bust of Nefertiti and Release the Data for Free Online: Al-Badri and Nelles take issue, for instance, with the Neues Museum’s method of displaying the bust, which apparently does not provide viewers with any context of how it arrived at the museum — thus transforming it and creating a new history tantamount to fiction, they believe. Over the years, the bust has become a symbol of German identity, a status cemented by the fact that the museum is state-run, and many Egyptians have long condemned this shaping of identity with an object from their cultural heritage. (project link: The Other Nefertiti)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (31 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
The model looks like an excellent scan. I'll throw it on my printer and see how it turns out.

There are a lot of free high quality models from private and museum collections at Thingiverse (there's also a lot of junk, YWWV)
posted by gwint at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is good work.
posted by odinsdream at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe I missed it in the articles but would anybody care to speculate as to how the scan was covertly made?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2016


I had no idea the British Museum had a scanathon. That is so cool!
I am so delighted to see some museums really embracing technology to share their collections.
Great article; thanks for posting!
posted by pointystick at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2016


LOHK, if you watch the video in the article they show what I presume to be the scanner being worn, chest-mounted under a scarf.
posted by fings at 10:51 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is very, very good work. I would hope the Neue Museum would rethink their position. I can't imagine how the artists managed to scan the bust, the security in there is tediously tight.
My only thought against repatriation is what 'ISIL' (however they are called) has done to artifacts - but in that sense, it should be thought of, and listed and treated, as on loan from Egypt.
A fascinating project.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


LOHK, if you watch the video in the article they show what I presume to be the scanner being worn, chest-mounted under a scarf.
That is awesome! Sometimes, I love living in the future.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2016


oh my gosh, this is one of the coolest capers I've ever seen.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was curious myself how this was done, and with my own limited experience with mobile 3D scanning and fings' video, I'll take a stab at a better explanation of how they did this:

That's an old xBox 360 Kinect she's got hidden under her scarf there, and they likely have a laptop in a bag or something that it's connected to running something like Skanect (which I understand to be the current standard). With this setup, as I understand it, getting such a high quality scan is a matter of how much time you can spend letting the computer process different angles and aggregating an accurate rendering. It helps that the bust itself seems to be a near ideal scanning subject. Not too shiny. Well lit.

The time required is what was tripping me up before I saw the video. I assumed they must have one of the >$10,000 rotary-flash dealies that I haven't bothered to look much into since I don't have $10,000, but no.

$40 for an old Kinect on eBay.
$0 for Skanect. For this they wouldn't need to pro license.
$0 to run it on a laptop they almost certainly already owned.

Of course, the printers are a whole other deal, but think about what is happening here! With an old gaming console peripheral, people are surreptitiously capturing micron-accurate models of heavily-guarded ancient artifacts! I'm usually being sarcastic when I say this, but not this time. What a time to be alive!

I'm a noob on the low-end of this technology, and I couldn't find that the artists said much about it, so if someone knows better than I do about what's happening here, I'd love to hear it.
posted by cmoj at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


The model looks like an excellent scan. I'll throw it on my printer and see how it turns out.

This is one of the very few things about the 21st century that's good.
posted by eriko at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


cmoj, thanks for the info! I love that relatively "old" tech (Kinect is almost 5 years old, in terms of public availability) is being utilized so well.

Scanathon is one of The British Museum's efforts to digitize its collection for broader public access, and Smithsonion has a 3D portal. Get with the times, Neues Museum.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2016


Well, the fine detail is lost when I printed it the size of a chess piece, but still, take that Neues Museum!
posted by gwint at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


Meanwhile, it appears that there is a hidden chamber next to Tutanhkamen's tomb that may hold Nefertiti. The reveal is promised this April.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


What, taking priceless antiquities out of a “backward” country for safe keeping? But that was the British Empire's job!
posted by scruss at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a great post! Thanks for sharing.
posted by missmary6 at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Meet the artist. I've always been interested on why he left these busts behind.
posted by clavdivs at 4:23 PM on February 22, 2016


Some scans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art are up on Thingiverse.

If this really is a guerrilla scan, I am very impressed with the quality, especially through glass. I did a quick print this afternoon and it looks fabulous!
posted by phooky at 6:05 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cosmo Wenman has also scanned a bunch of sculpture.
posted by phooky at 6:09 PM on February 22, 2016


"a status cemented by the fact that the museum is state-run, and many Egyptians have long condemned this shaping of identity with an object from their cultural heritage.

That sounds like a press release from the temple of Aten, circa 1325 B.C.
posted by clavdivs at 6:50 PM on February 22, 2016


Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This is the absolute best.
posted by latkes at 9:35 PM on February 22, 2016


I like that they made the bust scans public (I think it's ridiculous when museums try to stop people from taking non-flash pictures of things that should be in the public domain) but I'm also very much against this popular idea, which the article seems to be mostly about, that museums should return items to their countries of origin (at least, if the items were gained under legal conditions at the time of acquisition; nevermind if the law has since changed.) I feel it's equivalent to me going to someone who bought property that my great-grandmother once owned and insisting they should give it back to me because grandma had no right to give up property that would benefit her descendants and also she sold it under conditions of economic duress which were created by friends of the current owners' ancestors and so they effectively forced her to give it up. It's just stupid.
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 4:30 AM on February 23, 2016


I feel it's equivalent to me going to someone who bought property that my great-grandmother once owned and insisting they should give it back to me because grandma had no right to give up property that would benefit her descendants and also she sold it under conditions of economic duress which were created by friends of the current owners' ancestors and so they effectively forced her to give it up.

Right, exactly! You don't get to steal stuff (or heavily coerce it from others) and keep it. No matter how long it takes, that's still stolen property. The fact that the current owners are related to the thieves makes this significantly easier, because we don't have to worry about harm to third parties who didn't realize the goods were stolen. It's an open-and-shut case: reparations are required.

It's just stupid.

Wait, what?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:53 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gotta start somewhere.

First you give back Nefertiti's head, then you give back all that acreage we got in the land deal where we bought that territory west of the Mississippi from someone who didn't own it; maybe, as a gesture of solidarity, France will return our money. Somebody's gonna think that's the right thing to do, maybe even that it's a good idea. Let me know when you get around to Oregon, and I'll start packing my trunk. (In truth I can't draw a bright line between preserving history and returning stolen property. I guess notions regarding "the right to know" area always open to negotiation.)

Looking into Nefertiti's face is a disturbing experience even though it's a remove or two from the living woman. I'd bet the artist who created this bust saw her in his dreams.
posted by mule98J at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2016


There’s Something Fishy About The Other Nefertiti: the 3d scan is way too high quality to have been made the way the artists said they did it.
posted by Nelson at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


That article says that it's possible that hackers stole the high-res scan from the museum's archives, a scan that we know exists because the museum is selling a detailed 3d replica.

I wonder though. Why not just assume that the hackers took the easiest route, and bought the 3d replica and then made a high-res scan of that replica? It's a simulacrum of a simulacrum. Arty people love that stuff.
posted by Think_Long at 8:55 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


There’s Something Fishy About The Other Nefertiti

I'm not knowledgeable or experienced enough to be absolutely convinced either way, but the article says that the Kinect can't achieve scans like that, then goes on to say that it could be done in software with a bunch of still shots from various angles... which is exactly my understanding of what is happening when you hook a Kinect up to a program like Skanect.

And they don't even touch on any of the more obvious issues. Assuming that they used the method they say they did, it would take a very long time to accumulate that much data. I don't know how long people typically look at the bust, but I would think someone slowly and smoothly side-stepping around it for like half an hour would arouse suspicion. I am also led to believe that Nefertiti is surrounded by a glass box, which would pose serious problems for an IR-projecting depth-mapper. They don't like stuff that's too shiny or too black. And finally, how would they scan the top of it?

I did take them at face value at first because the idea is so exciting, but I'm forced to admit that there are big holes in their story.
posted by cmoj at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2016


And they don't even touch on any of the more obvious issues.

The article discusses all those issues, specifically the glass and the top.

I like Think_Long's theory that it's a scan of the reproduction. That's such an obvious explanation, actually, I'm surprised no one brought it up when the art project was first announced. Maybe it's because it's more fun to think it was a surreptitious scan?
posted by Nelson at 11:11 AM on March 7, 2016


So it does. My sensors must've scanned past that part.
posted by cmoj at 1:03 PM on March 7, 2016




Oh that article is great, bluecore. Even if the artists' scan turns out to be an unlicensed copy of the museum's own proprietary scan, I'd say the artists still accomplished their primary goal of provoking a debate about stewardship of antiquities. Cosmo's article has a great section on other opportunities for 3d data of art works to be shared.
posted by Nelson at 7:35 AM on March 8, 2016


Also, for anyone interested this is the best repository I've found of these kinds of (institutionally sanctioned) scans. Click "Explore the Collection" to mainline it.

I'm sure there's a lot of overlap on Thingiverse, but this place has a section for it.
posted by cmoj at 1:27 PM on March 8, 2016


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