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9 November 2012 | PR 12/197

Ancient hieroglyphics meet cutting-edge technology at Loughborough University

Original StThe interactive Stela of Hesysunebef

The interactive Stela of Hesysunebef.

Engineers from Loughborough University have used the latest cutting-edge technology to bring to life an ancient Egyptian inscribed tablet.

Working with The Manchester Museum, Loughborough’s Professor John Tyrer has created a high-tech interactive display that will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the story behind the Stela of Hesysunebef.

Stelae were set up at religious sites to commemorate individuals or groups of people.  They formed a permanent record of someone and allowed them to participate eternally in religious rituals.

The Stela of Hesysunebef is separated into three horizontal sections, called registers.  The top register shows Neferhotep, the foreman of a gang of workmen who lived at the village of Deir el-Medina.  He stands on the prow of a boat used to carry the statue of the goddess Mut.  The middle register shows Hesysunebef, the adoptive son of Neferhotep and his family, who are all kneeling in adoration before the foreman. The lower register shows five more people including the parents-in-law of Hesysunebef.  It dates back to around 1600 BC.

Professor Tyrer, from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, used a replica of the inscribed tablet – created using 3D printing – and kitted it out with 55 sophisticated sensors.  When any section of the stela is touched detailed information about that aspect of the tablet is displayed on a screen.  This information can also be tailored for people of different ages and for those with a visual or hearing impairment. 

Sam Sportun, collections care manager at The Manchester Museum said: “I have known and worked with Professor Tyrer for a while and I knew he would find a way to help me place some sensors in a replica I wanted to make of the stela. This would then allow me to locate contextual information on the surface of an object, which in turn I hoped would help unlock its story.

“This stela was chosen as it is a complex object with a multi layered story that remains pretty impenetrable to the majority of visitors unless they have a background in Egyptology.  It also has a recognisable contemporary story about human relationships which I wanted to reveal.

“I commissioned the scan of the object and the adaptation of the back to accept the scheme of sensors which Professor Tyrer and his colleagues had specially developed. This sensor interface works through the object so it remains invisible but sends signals to specialist software which activates sound and image files next to the object on a screen. This information can be updated and changed relatively easily which allows more information to be added as and when required.”

Professor Tyrer added: “It was incredibly interesting working on this project.  Combining the ancient with the most up-to-date electronic sensors was a challenge but I think what has been created is a fantastic example of how modern technology can bring the past to life.”

The original stela and the interactive version feature in the new Ancient Worlds galleries at The Manchester Museum, a major reworking of the museum’s internationally important Ancient Egypt and Archaeology collections.


For all media enquiries contact:

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the Best Student Experience in England every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 12 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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This page was last updated on Friday November 9, 2012 12:16