Scanning technique creates 3D map of archeological site

Scanning technique creates 3D map of archeological site


Leicester: Experts from the University of Leicester have combined laser scanning and digital photogrammetric techniques to create an interactive 3D map of Richard III’s (King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field) grave. The remarkably accurate reconstruction will preserve the grave as it was following the excavation of Richard’s skeleton – and will be a useful tool for studying the grave’s conditions in future. Experts believe that this technology may prove to be useful in restoration of several other important archeological sites.

King Richard’s grave was discovered at the Grey Friars church by Leicester archaeologists in September 2012. David Ackerley, a postgraduate researcher in the University’s School of Geography, used a terrestrial laser scanner to map the exact shape of the grave. This instrument is part of the Leicester LiDAR Research Unit, based in the Department of Geography and directed by Dr Nick Tate. The instrument was placed at various points around the grave. Using the principles of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), it fires out laser pulses in a 360 degree arc, recording the length of time taken to bounce off a surface and return to the scanner. The information gathered at each of the measuring positions was combined to build up a 20-million point-cloud of the site – revealing everything down to the precise soil textures of the excavated grave walls. The data from David’s laser-scanning of the grave will then be converted into a triangulated irregular network (TIN) surface and combined with a survey made using digital photographs. David uses this technique as part of his geomorphology research to monitor how the surfaces of gravel-bed rivers structure over flood events and how this influences particle entrainment and sediment transport. It allows him to survey the fluvial environment without, importantly, disturbing his area of interest.

José Manuel Valderrama Zafra, a visiting academic at the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History who was invited to join the project by fellow archaeologist at the University, Dr. Mark Gillings, used a digital camera to take more than 80 pictures of the grave from many different angles. José, who is also an engineering researcher at the University of Jaén, Spain, used 3D modeling software to combine the photos into a 3D model of the grave. The researchers hope to combine the two datasets by mapping the photographic model onto the surface derived from the laser-scans. This would add context and extra depth to the surface – making it easier to see colours and features as well as the exact shape and dimensions of the grave. Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist on the Search for Richard III, said: “What is remarkable about this is that we can create a truly objective 3D record of Richard III’s grave using modern technology. It can then be used by Leicester City Council for the Richard III Visitor Centre.

Source: University of Leicester