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Developing professional guidance: laser scanning in archaeology and architecture

Visits March 2005 April 20th 2005

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Project overview
The Heritage3D project directly addresses four sections of the 1998 English Heritage Exploring our Past Implementation plan. The two principal aims of the project are to: develop and support best practice in laser scanning for archaeology and architecture disseminate this best practice to users along with the education of likely beneficiaries In order to achieve these aims the project works towards five objectives: Objective 1 production of a guidance note that demonstrates the products that can be generated from laser scanning Objective 2 to update the current Addendum to the Metric Survey Specification to take into account the continuing advances in the technology Objective 3 to increase the knowledge base of English Heritage by forming partnerships with external survey practitioners/equipment manufacturers within the UK Objective 4 to promote synthesis between disciplines within English Heritage by publishing and maintaining a project website Objective 5 to provide workshops on the use of laser scanning to educate archaeologists, architects and engineers from within English Heritage.

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1. TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. 2. 3. Table of Contents............................................................................................................................. 3 Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 4 Summary.......................................................................................................................................... 5

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2. INTRODUCTION In March 2005 Dr David Barber, on behalf of the Heritage3D project, made visits to three UK based organisations involved in archaeology and laser scanning. This document summarises these discussions into four major themes. Over two days visits were made to: A commercial archaeology practice - Wessex Archaeology (WA), Salisbury (Tom Goskar) Wessex Archaeology is one of the largest archaeological practices in the country. The Trust for Wessex Archaeology was set up in 1979 as a small unit in Salisbury. It now employs over 150 archaeologists, but retains its charitable status and its remit to encourage interest in archaeology and extend knowledge about it to a wider public. 10 English Heritage - Centre for Archaeology, Portsmouth (Tom Cromwell and Paul Cripps) English Heritage's Centre for Archaeology at Fort Cumberland, near Portsmouth, was established in 1999 by bringing together the Central Archaeology Service, already based in Portsmouth, and the Ancient Monuments Laboratory, relocated from London. CfA was set up with the aim of becoming a national centre of excellence in archaeological practice, integrating work in the field, stratigraphic analysis, finds studies and work in the laboratory; it provides a resource for English archaeology, working in partnership with units, universities and amateur groups, and a source of help and advice on policy and casework for colleagues within English Heritage. Academic teaching and research institution - Southampton University, Department of Archaeology (Graeme Earl) 20 The Department of Archaeology at Southampton was founded in 1966. Dr Graeme Earl (Research Fellow) researches computer techniques for the analysis and presentation of archaeological data. He is particularly concerned with the development and implementation of multimedia resources for archaeology, including the uses of virtual reality and other techniques for the interpretation of archaeological sites and for providing access to online archives.

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3. SUMMARY The visits have been combined into general headings, rather than summarised by discussion. (The questions are intended to outline the general discussions rather than the actual questions used in the visits). Users and perceptions Who are/likely to be the main users of laser scanning datasets? What are their needs? What are their perceptions and opinions? 30 1. Users, and the benefits they experience, tend to be specific to datasets. Different levels of detail are generally required to provide appropriate products. Many recording needs in archaeology are quite mundane and may not require the use of laser scanning. 2. Users include the curators and inspectors responsible for managing and maintaining buildings, sites and monuments. They can/do inform the decision making process by using survey and laser scanning products to undertake proximity/visibility analysis and condition surveys (including monitoring). This information is provided to structural engineers, architects, and archaeologists from commercial organisations, academic institutions, the media, education, English Heritage and the government. 3. Examples subjects to which laser scanning has been applied include: 40 scanning of small artefacts such as flint arrowheads and skull/bone fragments building facades, where the scanning itself might be subcontracted to a data provider but with vector extraction and archaeological interpretation is undertaken by the client topographic survey where a high level of topographic detail is required quickly and the product is to be used for cross sectioning and light shading (previous topographic assessment has used DGPS and total station survey) large sites, such as Stonehenge, where airborne scanning gas been used, although survey is generally reliant on LiDAR data collected for non archaeological applications.


4. The general response to scanning is very positive, but some people are entrenched in traditional techniques, although there are fewer of these people as time goes on. Commercial hesitation has been encountered with use of laser scanning prohibited in some cases. There is generally an excellent response amongst colleagues within organisations, although sometimes only superficially. Some colleagues are, however, starting to enquire about using scanning within projects, although budget constraints are always a worry. Some people see scanning as a black box to be used without too much consideration. 5. There is a general perception (especially amongst non-expert users) that scan data must be right as it is done on a computer. It is seen as reasonable to use scanning for virtual reality (VR) applications, especially in the context of educational engagement, but there is some resistance against virtual reconstructions (which are often subjective). 6. There is a need to provide access to laser scanning data at a corporate level (especially LiDAR) through internal GIS systems. However, this requires appropriate desktop tools and data management policies (see sections below). Tools What specific software packages do you use? What devices do you employ to analyse and interpret data generated from laser scanning? 1. Tools used or seen as vital in all discussions include 3D Studio Max, ArcGIS and AutoCAD. Demon ( was also used to inspect data and Pointools ( has been trailed. Generally the point cloud itself is not used, and alignment/registration of data is undertaken by the data provider. None of the visited organisations operate a laser scanner themselves. A meshed model was the typical dataset used by the archaeologist user.


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2. For data analysis, lighting techniques were the most commonly used tool for assessing changes in geometry. Often this interpretation is undertaken using 3D Studio to render scenes with light sources that change location. 3. It was noted that there is a need to provide tools that allow annotation of data and three-dimensional management/analysis of data. Future tools will make use of collaborative environments (based on the concept of the GRID internet level data distribution/processing) to share, process and interpret data. Deliverables How do you receive or deliver products derived from scan data? Do you have/use standard deliverables? 1. Deliverables/processing were provided on a case by case basis without automatically replicating previous work, thus delivery and presentation methods are not strictly defined. There is a need to define the need of the survey before work is carried out. 2. Although 2D line drawings are being generated from scan data, there was a general feeling that the 3D nature of the data must be maintained in the deliverable. 3D isometric drawings are sometimes used. For meshed models Alias Wavefront files are the main deliverable, but often these have to be delivered as decimated files. Online delivery has been considered using Active-X plug-ins such as Octopus ( based on/inspired by QSplat ( at Stanford University. 3. Single images and movies are used, but these require pre-thought as to what the client actually wants to look at. Movies, however, retain user interaction, for example by being able to select the frame with a particular lighting angle, while allowing use on a computer without specialist software. There was seen as no reason why scans couldnt be used as scaled images, for example in repointing brickwork (although the meaning of reflectance values needs to be given). 4. There was some discussion on the use of scanning to replace the drawing of artefacts. However, this is a process in which the expert recorder takes a lot of pride, and although there is potential for replacing it might be difficult to convince people. However, it was highlighted that drawing is subjective and any output is an interpretation, even though it is often perceived as a faithful representation. Pros and cons What do you see as the main advantages of using laser scanning? What are its strengths and weaknesses?




1. If airborne LiDAR is used in archaeological applications the user normally has to resort to using previously captured data. However, available commercial data (such as from the Environment Agency) often has vegetation removed using semi-automated algorithms, which make them of less use for archaeology as the resulting surface may have processing artefacts that can be confused with archaeological features. 2. Typical to find that a primary user of laser scanning data requires additional computer power over existing machines before being able to use point cloud/un-decimated meshes produced by laser scanning. 3. Photography was seen as allowing up-font interpretation through the choice of sun angle or aspect and as a technique that reduces the up-front fieldwork cost, as geometric data collection can be commissioned later on if necessary. Laser scanning is seen as allowing less up-front interpretation with larger up-front costs but allowing objective recording (although interpretation might still be subjective). 4. Photography users are restricted to an east-west illumination, where as artificial lighting can be provided from any direction using a rendered geometric model. There was some discussion as to how many features have been missed on photography (airborne and terrestrial) due to choice/unavailable lighting conditions. However, it is was considered unlikely laser scanning will prevent incorrect interpretation, or features being missed.


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5. Reported difficulties in using large amounts of geometric data often resulting from laser scanning within 3D Studio. 120 6. Some users reported variable data quality form project to project when dealing with contractors. 7. Laser scanning isnt seen as a useful trench tool, but is of obvious use in environments like caves and in providing a framework to which other data/interpretation can be attached. Archive issues Specifically, how do you deal with the archiving of laser scanning data? 1. No formal archive strategy especially for laser scanning was evident. Existing data management procedures seemed to be normal. Notably, ASCII data files were exported to provide an additional format. Optical backup made offsite, normally at close down of a project. Data archives in the order of around 10 12 GB reported. 2. Some problems experienced with CDs which, over time have started to degrade. The same worry exists for DVDs but at present they are too new to notice any changes. 130 Other 1. An increase in scanning was generally seen as likely. One visit suggested that scanning for topographic surveys would see an increase, close range scanning is anticipated to be quite a small part of this work and scanning for building measurement/analysis will see little or no change. 2. The economic cost of any technique is a major issue in archaeology. Commercial archaeology in particular is driven by cost, and the use of paper and pencils is often preferred to potentially expensive technology. 3. Although virtual reconstructions were seen as feasible it was recognised that it is also about experiencing the landscape and the emotional response that creates. By providing greater fidelity of the landscape/subjects involvement might be increased. However, there is a need for an audit trail in visualisation that might otherwise lead to subjective interpretations, although it is unclear how can this be done.


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