Thursday, 29 August 2013

Structure from Motion Based 3D Modeling: A realistic option for archaeological recording and digital heritage management

In this week's blog post the Journal of Field Archaeology editorial team provide an overview of the exciting progress that is being made with motion based 3D modeling software and its applications to field archaeology.
Figure depicting how the site of Tel Akko was modeled using PhotoScan Pro
"Following recent developments in structure from motion based 3D modeling software, which allows one to create a 3D model using a collection of digital photographs, archaeologists have sought to utilize such technologies in the field. While the incorporation of 3D modeling in archaeology is not a novel concept, previous attempts using expensive laser scanners or complex modeling programs prevented the majority of projects from adopting a 3D approach for various facets of the archaeological process.  In “The Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project (Akko, Israel): Assessing the Suitability of Multi-Scale 3D Field Recording in Archaeology,” an article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology, Brandon R. Olson, Ryan A. Placchetti, Jamie Quartermaine, and Ann E. Killebrew argue that with the release of a handful of programs capable of creating 3D models using digital photographs over the last 3 years, most notably PhotoScan Pro, it is now possible to three dimensionally model any archaeological target of interest ranging in size from an individual artifact to entire sites and landscapes. The authors note that their approach does not suffer from the shortcomings of previous 3D applications. Their system is simple and straightforward, taking less than an afternoon to train project members to use the technology and, at less than $4000 USD to purchase a program license and moderately equipped desktop, cost effective.
Already others have adopted Tel Akko’s approach and commented on its utility and potential, as evidenced by a blog post from The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World. Now that a protocol for producing accurate and photorealistic 3D models of archaeological features has been created, one must now question how and in what way this technology can be harnessed to address specific archaeological questions and facilitate digital heritage management over the long term. Ultimately it will be up to the archaeological community to continue to foster the development of 3D technology in archaeology, but the authors rightly point out its potential in stating:
'Archaeological documentation is often developed with the scholarly community in mind [and] has a public mission to reveal the past and preserve it in a way that is culturally meaningful. In the past, sensational archaeological discoveries were built around spectacles of gold and monumental finds. The grandeur of spectacular archaeological finds may have diminished, but public fascination remains. By developing visually rich and easily accessible resources, archaeologists can invoke wonder at the ancient world. In the same way that the archaeologists of the past inspired public interest in archaeology by filling museums, the modern archaeologist can contribute to a virtually limitless digital repository'."


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