Archaeology in the Palm of Your Hand

The Fairfield Foundation launched a new digital historic preservation initiative in 2017 using drones, photogrammetry, and 3D printing. At the conclusion of each layer of the dig the drone was used to capture the exposed objects and terrain.  The photos were used to create a digital surface model which was then 3D printed and assembled to demonstrate how an archaeologist investigates and preserves a historic site.

In this case it was the Fairfield Plantation site in Gloucester County, Virginia.  The 1694 manor house has been the focus of excavations since 2000 by a team of professional archaeologists involving hundreds of volunteers each year.  The process of excavation, and the historical discoveries made to date, inform and educate everyone involved and the Foundation believes it is crucial that this outdoor classroom and laboratory experience be accessible to all.

They use a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone to photograph the surface after the completion of every excavated layer. Agisoft PhotoScan transforms the photographs into a highly detailed digital elevation model, creating a virtual landscape alongside an archaeological archive that is far more detailed than standard documentation would produce, but this is only half of the process.

Much of the interest and appeal of archaeology is derived from tactile experiences.  3D printing technology now allows the team to take the individual polygons and print, paint, and assemble them like a 3D puzzle.  This can be achieved with older field documentation as well, although some additional manipulation is necessary to compensate for fewer excavation photos and less elevation data.

The result is stunning and the preliminary outreach programs suggest that it not only connects users with the space, but also provokes discussions regarding archaeological methods and interpretation.

The full article is here.

This entry was posted in 3D Modeling, 3D Printing, archaeology, cultural heritage, Historic Preservation, Mapping, Research, UAS, UAVs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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