3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners

On October 5th, the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council held their first in a series of four programs in honor of 2021 Virtual Archaeology Month. This session was titled 3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners, and was led by Lisa Saladino Haney, Ph.D., assistant curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Josh Cannon Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College.

The Artec Space Spider.

Haney started by describing the types of 3D scanners that she is using and that could be applied to future field archaeology projects. These Artec3D scanners are the Space Spider and Eva. The Space Spider is a handheld, portable scanner that uses blue light technology that works best when scanning smaller objects or finer textures or details. It also works well with complex geometry, sharp edges, and incised ceramics. It has internal temperature stabilization, meaning it works well in the winter and summer. The Eva works better with larger objects and is also portable. It uses structured light scanning technology to capture its images. Because of its larger field of vision, it can capture more in less time. Combining both scanners allow for the collection of even more details. The presenters stated that these scanners work much better with shiny surfaces than photogrammetry. Overall, the scanners capture reflective surfaces, have a higher level of accuracy, and work faster in post-processing than photogrammetry.

The Artec Eva.

Dr. Haney and Dr. Cannon are working with University of Pittsburg honor students in a museum internship program to instruct them on how to use this technology, and once trained can hopefully send them to other sections of the Carnegie Museum where needed. Projects the scanners are being used for right now include an exhibition titled From Egypt to Pittsburgh, in which the team are scanning small fragments from a 1922 excavation from an Egyptian city called Amarna, in the hopes that the pulverized royal statuary pieces can be reconstructed and used for future research. Another project, Egypt on the Nile, plans on scanning a model of a Dahshur funerary boat to create both a virtual and physical model. They also plan to use the scanners to scan broken pot pieces to then create magnetic replicas that can be used to “put the pot back together” in a sort of puzzle, increasing accessibility and the chance to interact with ‘artifacts’ for the public.

The 3D models created from the scanners are extremely accurate, with precise and detailed measurements. This allows the data from the models to be of high quality scientifically, making them great for sharing to researchers around the world, especially in times of covid where travel and use of collections is limited. The models also aid with conservation efforts, allowing pieces to be brought out, scanned, and then put safely away, with the data being used for study and public engagement. Aligning pottery sherds with the Artec3D software that are difficult to glue together, was also illustrated as a positive example of the scanners’ possibilities.

The application for scanners to be used in the field during an archaeological excavation is promising. The scanners could be used to record small finds quickly and could also be used to scan things in situ. The models produced are more detailed, more accurate, and can be done faster than hand drawings. For archeological field surveys, battery packs can be attached to belts to make the light scanners portable and give archaeologists the ability to scan in real time. However, a laptop is needed to be attached as well, to upload the scanned data. The scanner captures images instantly, the Eva can do a square meter at a time. Josh Cannon predicted that it could scan a hearth in about ten minutes. While the scanners can handle temperature changes, it might not fare well with elements like sand or dust, but if taken care of can last a long time.

The files of data from the scans are large, and therefore external storage sources are required to remove data from laptops. If files are kept on laptops, processing times will be slowed as the hard drive fills up. The presentation ended with the viewing of a scan of a wolverine skull. It took eight different scans over an hour to create the entire skull. Even the smallest details were visible, and it took up over 1 GB of data.

The presentation was incredibly interesting, and hopefully this technology will be used to aid archaeological excavations in the future. Please consider registering for the other three programs being held throughout the month of October!

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https://sourcegraphics.com/3d/scanners/artec/eva/

https://www.javelin-tech.com/3d/3d-scanners/artec-space-spider/

 

Working At the Carnegie Museum: A Love Affair.

By: Kristina Gaugler

The Carnegie Museum and I have a long history.

Early photograph of the Hall of Architecture

I was born and raised in the North Side of Pittsburgh, and like many a “city kid” I was shuttled by school bus to and from the Carnegie Museum throughout grade school, middle school, and high school. I have vivid memories of sitting at the long wooden tables in the museum cafeteria, under enormous glass windows, scarfing my brown bag lunch so I could get back to exploring. I was the kid who shushed classmates who were interrupting the docents, who asked a thousand questions, read every single word on the exhibit displays, and who didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. When I was an angst-ridden teenager, I would hang out at the museum after school, moping around the hall of architecture or sitting alone in the replica Egyptian tomb. Visiting the museum now, so many years later, I still have the same feelings of comfort and wonder as I did when I was younger. As an archaeologist and general history enthusiast, I love all museums, but the Carnegie definitely holds a special place for me. It feels like my museum.

My purpose in writing this post is to share some of my experiences working and volunteering at the Carnegie. I hope that I also highlight the notion that outreach programs and education within public institutions is valuable, worth our efforts, and fun for people of all ages.

I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate in anthropology. While attending Pitt I had a work-study position through the Carnegie at the “Bone Hunters Quarry,” where I taught visitors (mostly school groups) about extinct animals through the excavation of a fake site. I learned that if you gave a small child a chisel and told them to dig wherever they wanted, you were very likely to ignite a spark within them that excited their curiosity in the past. Although, on occasion a spark was ignited within them to throw the chisel, sometimes narrowly missing your own head, those times were fun too. Either way, this was the first time that I really began to discover how much I enjoyed talking to visitors about archaeology and history.

Talking with visitors during Artifact I.D. day at the Carnegie

After graduating from Pitt, I found work as an archaeological field technician. Eventually though, I decided that I wanted to take a break from full time field work to prepare to go back to graduate school. Through a series of fortunate events I began, once again, to work for the Carnegie Museum. This time I volunteered at the Edward O’Neil Research Center, which is the Carnegie Museums off-site collections facility. My supervisor and friend, Amy Covell, allowed me the freedom to work on projects that interested me in the lab. When I started volunteering at the annex, the building was in the process of being renovated and many artifacts were going to be moved to new locations. Thus, I began my time there by helping to build permanent supports for fragile materials, including prehistoric pottery, stone tools, and glass artifacts. I learned proper handling of artifacts in accordance with the most current curatorial procedures, and I learned conservation techniques used in cleaning objects, including removing old plastics, adhesives, and ink that were used in the early days of museum storage and curation.

My favorite task at the museum however, was to be a part of the educational outreach programs. Last June I had the opportunity to speak with visitors about archaeology during the Carnegie’s “After Dark Program,” a monthly series where guests can come to the museum in the evening to explore, eat, drink, and hear lectures on various subjects. Another one of my favorite programs at the museum is “Artifact Identification Day.” This event gives visitors the opportunity to bring in their heirlooms and artifacts to have them identified by staff. It is always amazing, and sometimes humorous (see photo of me holding a Lodoicea) to help identify the items that people bring.

Holding a Lodoicea, or sea coconut, during Artifact I.D. Day. Lodoicea is the largest seed in the world! (And yes, it does look like a butt)

 

I have often thought of the Carnegie as being a museum of a museum. The Carnegie began acquiring artifacts and creating exhibits over a hundred years ago, and many of those early exhibits and artifacts are still on display. Working and volunteering at the museum gave me the opportunity to be a part of the team of people who were helping to conserve and protect these cherished items for future generations. To me, protecting artifacts and archaeological sites begins by showing people why they should care about them. For this reason, programs and institutions that promote stewardship of the past are incredibly important. History is made up of millions of stories. One of those stories is bound to pique the interest of someone! I’m very thankful for my time at the Carnegie, and I look forward to many more years of learning and visiting!

Photo of “Early Hall of Architecture” from: http://carnegiemuseums.org/about-us/our-history/

IUP DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY