Anthropology Publications


ARCHAEO-SCAN: Portable 3D Shape Measurement System for Archaeological Field Work

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering



First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier


Accurate measurement and thorough documentation of excavated artifacts are the essential tasks of archaeological fieldwork. The on-site recording and long-term preservation of fragile evidence can be improved using 3D spatial data acquisition and computer-aided modeling technologies. Once the artifact is digitized and geometry created in a virtual environment, the scientist can manipulate the pieces in a virtual reality environment to develop a "realistic" reconstruction of the object without physically handling or gluing the fragments. The ARCHAEO-SCAN system is a flexible, affordable 3D coordinate data acquisition and geometric modeling system for acquiring surface and shape information of small to medium sized artifacts and bone fragments. The shape measurement system is being developed to enable the field archaeologist to manually sweep the non-contact sensor head across the relic or artifact surface. A series of unique data acquisition, processing, registration and surface reconstruction algorithms are then used to integrate 3D coordinate information from multiple views into a single reference frame. A novel technique for automatically creating a hexahedral mesh of the recovered fragments is presented. The 3D model acquisition system is designed to operate from a standard laptop with minimal additional hardware and proprietary software support. The captured shape data can be pre-processed and displayed on site, stored digitally on a CD, or transmitted via the Internet to the researcher's home institution.