The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Bioarchaeology in 3D: Employing three-dimensional technology in the field and in the lab

CHRISTOPHER J. KNUSEL1, SCOTT D. HADDOW1, JOSHUA W. SADVARI1 and NICOLÓ DELL'UNTO1.

1Archaeology, University of Exeter, UK, 2Cranfield Forensic Institute, Cranfield University, UK, 3Anthropology, Ohio State University, USA, 4Humanities and Theology, Lund University, Sweden

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Bioarchaeologists integrate their knowledge of archaeological contexts with the analysis of human skeletal remains to address a myriad of research questions regarding past populations. By its nature, however, archaeology is a destructive enterprise, and researchers not present during excavation may have difficulties visualizing or appreciating the contexts from which skeletal remains have been derived. The use of three-dimensional technology in bioarchaeology can provide a permanent and interactive record of context, which can be made available to research colleagues, both present and future, who will not have had the chance to observe the human remains in situ. As a result, collaboration among bioarchaeologists, as well as our interpretive potential, can be strengthened. The 3D technology employed in this study requires only a basic digital camera and the use of relatively inexpensive or open-source computer software for merging photos into a 3D model (Agisoft PhotoScan) and georeferencing (MeshLab). Using 3D models developed through the Çatalhöyük Research Project, the accessibility, value, and power of such models for bioarchaeological research will be demonstrated. Some potential uses of 3D models in the field include reconstructing burial sequences, interpreting commingled remains, and visualizing the relationships between skeletal remains and grave inclusions. In the lab, 3D models can be used in lieu of 2D photographs for documenting trauma, pathological conditions, and other variables of interest. If adopted broadly, the use of 3D technology can greatly enhance the way bioarchaeologists engage in research and present their findings to the wider scientific and public communities.

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