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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Redefining Digital Archaeology: New Methodologies for 3D Documentation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage

  • Author(s): Galeazzi, Fabrizio
  • Advisor(s): Aldenderfer, Mark S.
  • et al.

This research aims to investigate the potential use of 3D technologies for the analysis and interpretation of archaeological and heritage sites. The use of 3D laser scanners and dense stereo matching (DSM) techniques is well established in archaeology, since these techniques allow to digitally preserving information through time, giving the opportunity to multiple experts to revisit the information over the long-term. However, no convincing comparisons between those techniques (3D laser scanners and DSM) have been presented until now. This research fills the gap providing an accurate data assessment for the Las Cuevas site (Belize), and representing a concrete starting point for the definition of a sharable methodology.

Tests in different areas of Las Cuevas's site were conducted to compare both accuracy and density reliability of 3D models coming from laser scanning (triangulation light and time of flight laser scanner) and DSM. This study finds DSM as the most economical, portable, flexible, and widely used approach for the 3D documentation of archaeological sites today. In fact, DSM allows fastening the 3D documentation process, reducing both data acquisition and processing time. Nonetheless, the quantitative comparison presented in this research underscores the need to integrate this technique with laser scanner technologies when the data acquisition of micro-stratigraphy is required.

More broadly this research aims also to clarify if the use of new technology allows increasing the objectivity of the excavation process. Scholars are debating on the authenticity of 3D digital reproductions and simulation in heritage and archaeology. How should we consider these digital and virtual reproductions and simulations? Are they original digital representations of our cultural heritage or just virtual 'fakes'? Overall, the results of this research suggest that is not possible to define universal predetermined categories for the definition of 'authentic', since 3D digital reproductions and simulations of tangible heritage are influenced by subjective choices and interpretations of the creator of 3D contents.

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