3D: the scientific value

Besides its educational and communicative values (see previous post, 3D horse skeletons), 3D modeling also has an important scientific value for archaeological excavation recordings.

Archaeological excavations are often processes of guided destruction of the archaeological heritage, where the gain of scientific historic knowledge leads to the destruction of the basic in-situ dataset. Therefore, excavations require high-resolution registration techniques to achieve a maximal documentation of the archaeological site. Excavation recordings today are, although increasingly digitized, still biased by interpretation and a 2D view, mainly caused by the applied recording techniques (e.g. drawings, photographs). This results in a 2D ‘preservation’ of a 3D structural dataset. 3D recordings have the potential to enhance the quality of the archived archaeological heritage and they can potentially bridge the gap between in and ex-situ preservation of the archaeological remains.

An important advantage of 3D documenting of excavations, compared to the traditional literary accounts and graphical depictions, is the recording of shape. 3D remains are recorded as 3D shapes. The 3D shapes contain the geometrical information of the archaeological remains and they allow the study of variations in shapes. Another key aspect is the recording of the texture of archaeological remains, providing information about the color and appearances of the archaeology in an objective way.

The recording of both texture and 3D shape is of paramount importance in archaeological research as it aims at a complete and realistic recording of the archaeological remains in an objective way.


The example shows a quadrangular, timber-framed Rowan well, excavated in the former Roman vicus of Harelbeke (Belgium). The excavations were conducted by GATE bvba. The well was recorded with 104 photographs. The 3D model was georeferenced with 13 ground control points. The figure illustrates the high level of additional information and detail obtained with texture mapping. The video shows the 3D shape and the textured 3D model of the Roman well.

One thought on “3D: the scientific value

  1. Pingback: 3D Gallery: Roman well | Archaeology 3D

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