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Doubts and Discussion about Terminology

Miriam LT

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I am totally beginner in the forum and with PTM-RTI. Sorry if I’m writing in the wrong forum.


My name is Miriam Luciañez Triviño, I am a Basque Government Pre-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Seville (Prehistory and Archaeology Department). I have graduate and Master’s degrees in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Restoration, as well as a Master’s degree in Archaeology.


My research is focused on the manufacture, use and exchange of ivory objects in Iberian Late Prehistory, and the conservation/ restoration of archaeological ivory.


I am interested in use PTM-RTI to study ivory objects with two principal aims: 1. See the condition of the surface before and after the conservation-restoration treatments, and 2. Study the marks on the surface of the objects produced by the tools and the marks of use during the lifespan of the objects.


I am really new in the field of the PTM-RTI and I have a doubt about the terminology. Reading the bibliography, I am not able to understand the difference between the terms Polynomial Texture Mapping, Polynomial Texture Map(s) and Reflection Transformation Imaging. Maybe there a very slight difference, but many questions come to my mind like: When happened the change from using PTM to use RTI, are they the same technique? Have PTM and RTI the same mathematical background?


Could someone clarify me the current use of these terms, there is a consensus about it?


Thank you very much.


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We have produced a glossary of terms for RTI, and you can get it from our website here:



Both PTM and RTI are defined in this document. (and I'll add that Tom Malzbender, who invented PTM helped write the glossary)


To answer your specific question, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (sometimes called Reflection Transformation Imaging in very early papers) is the class of imaging where we collect multiple images with different known light positions in order to calculate color and shape information about the surface of the subject per pixel.  Polynomial Texture Mapping, or PTM, was the first type of RTI - and was invented by Tom Malzbender and Dan Gelb at Hewlett Packard Labs in 2001. There are other algorithms besides PTM for producing RTI files.



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