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Autumn Beyer


December 1, 2016

3D Modeling and Archaeology at MSU

December 1, 2016 | By | No Comments

This past summer at the Morton Village site, located in Central Illinois, the joint Michigan State University and Dickson Mounds Museum archaeological field school uncovered an artifact unique to the site. It is an zoomorphic sandstone block pipe, that we are interpreting as being similar to a bison! This artifact remains housed at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Havana, IL, but the co-directors, Drs. Jodie O’Gorman and Mike Conner, and myself were interested in creating a three dimensional model, both digital and printed. There are several reasons for this. First, because the artifact has delicate surface alterations including pigmentation and charred reside it cannot be handled without risk of damage. Second, because the object is housed in a different state, Michigan State University students would not be able to see the object themselves, and it could not be used in any public talks or classroom lectures. Having both a digital version as well as a printed model allows professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students to teach and learn about this object without the risk of damage that would be present with the original artifact.

Morton Village Sandstone Block Pipe

Morton Village Sandstone Block Pipe

How the models were created:

Using the resources available to anthropology and history students and faculty in LEADR, I was trained in photogrammetry and 3D modeling. As I am learning different techniques to create 3D models, I also used the NextEngine Scan Studio to create a second (not pictured) model. For the creation of the the final model, I focused solely on the photogrammetry images. After taking the photos, I imported the images into AgiSoft photoscan to create the model.  After aligning the photos, cleaning up the point dense cloud, erasing points that were picked up from the background of the photos, and aligning the points from the two rounds of photos, I had a complete model! This final version was uploaded to Sketchfab under LEADR’s account, but is being held private until final approval by the Illinois State Museum system. Hopefully we will be able to release the model to the publish soon!

Finally, I then took the digital model and printed it using the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ in LEADR. It took several tries and troubleshooting, but eventually I was able to print a high-quality version of the pipe!

3D Printed Morton Block Pipe

3D Printed Morton Block Pipe

If you would like to hear more about this project, feel free to come to the LOCUS talk (on modeling) today from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. in the MSU Main Library, 3W REAL Classroom where I will be giving a presentation!

If you are doing any 3D modeling in archaeology I would love to hear about it! What other ways are you using photogrammetry or laser scanning to create models?

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