A few weeks ago, R. Benjamin Gorham, a Ph.D. candidate in Classical Art & Archaeology at the University of Virginia, visited the Makerspace for a consultation on photogrammetry and 3D printing. Ben has been using GIS, drones, and photogrammetry during his summer excavations in Morgantina, Sicily and wanted to experiment with 3D printing his models. The physical reconstruction of archaeological sites offers exciting opportunities for both teaching and research, and I asked Ben to share a bit about his digital project:
The American Excavations at Morgantina: Contrada Agnese Project is an ongoing archaeological investigation at the ancient Graeco-Roman city of Morgantina, Sicily. As the Supervisor of Geospatial Studies at The Contrada Agnese Project, my goal is to translate the data from the field into useful, visual forms which can be studied, measured, and employed in publications and conferences. Part of this duty involves the creation, curation, and testing of a GIS database which serves as a nexus for all geographic data acquired in the field, including findspots, architectural features, and aerial imagery. Using a quadcopter drone we capture hundreds of images from the air every day, between 5 and 50 meters above our ongoing excavations. Agisoft Photoscan allows us to then combine these images with photos taken on the ground to create 3D models of our trenches and extant architecture, which are then hosted on our website and embedded in our GIS document. The Scholars’ Lab at UVa has allowed us to take this one step further, through the production of 3D-printed models of our trenches. We are using the Makerspace to generate hand-held versions of the buildings and trenches which are part of our ongoing excavations. This enables us to preserve every season’s results in a physical form. Since archaeology is an inherently destructive science, we are constantly removing, changing, and re-burying the stratigraphic records in the soil which we study in order to reveal more about the past, and these 3D-printed models serve as instructive units which can be examined, shared, and explored long after our project has either backfilled or dug past interesting features and periods of ancient history. This creates a permanent physical record of our project which would otherwise be partially lost every time our season concludes for the summer.