3D Scanners In Archaeology

3d scanners are relatively new technology. Only the advent of the laser and computers has allowed for the transfer of all details about an object into a computer, and possibly the manipulation of these items with computer aided drawing (CAD) software or similar software. 3d scanners have a huge variety of uses, but perhaps the best use is for reverse engineering and cultural purposes.

Such devices have been used by archaeologists since the invention of the technology. This application is excellent for the purpose of finding hidden details in an artifact or piece of artwork that are too small for the eye to detect it. Also, as the technology typically uses lasers or sound waves for the purposes of scanning the object, it is minimally invasive. For example, a scientist or historian may want to know more about the content of an oil painting and the chemical properties of the paint. He or she could take a small chip of paint out of the painting, but if the painting is historic enough, that likely would not be allowed. However, oil paint is very well known for accumulating in large bumps, with a lot of texture. A 3d scan of the painting could likely give enough information about the structure of the painting to figure out the contents of the paint.

There are a number of famous examples of the use of 3d scanners in archaeology. Perhaps the earliest is two different groups of researchers who were able to scan Michelangelo’s famous statue David in 1999. Both of these groups used scans at a resolution of .25 mm, which accumulated a huge amount of data, detailed enough to see the chisel marks. These data were able to tell the researchers a large amount about how the statue was made, what tools Michelangelo had to work with, and other important archaeological information. Today, most famous works of art have been subject to the same treatment. And best of all, it is completely noninvasive.

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