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VCU Archaeology

Western Pennsylvania Musings

By Bernard K. Means, Project Director

Scanning a cannel coal pendant from the Hatfield site, a Monongahela Tradition village.

The day following my presentation/demonstration at the Council for West Virginia Archaeology/West Virginia Archaeological Society, I took the scenic drive along I-79 and sundry other roads through West Virginia and into Pennsylvania.  My destination? Pittsburgh.  My plans in Pittsburgh were partly to work directly with members of the local archaeological community, who have a wide variety of objects that would help further test the ranges and limitations of our NextEngine 3D scanner.  My congenial host was noted scholar on the Monongahela culture—and many, many more archaeological culture traditions—William C. Johnson.  Dr. Johnson is actively engaged with a number of research projects and made available artifacts for scanning that included ceramic vessel and pipe fragments from the Gnagey 3, Graham Village, and Howarth-Nelson sites.  I also scanned a cannel coal pendant from the Hatfield site, on loan from project director Jason Espino of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Allegheny Chapter, as well as objects from the Consol site, on loan from Bob Oshnock of the Westmoreland Archaeological Society, another chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology.

Demonstrating 3D scanning of a Mohawk pottery sherd to the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Allegheny Chapter.

My other primary reason for traveling to Pittsburgh was to give a presentation/demonstration of our 3D object scanning project to members of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Allegheny Chapter, as well interested members of the public.  Although I have done numerous of these presentations/demonstrations, I find that, at each one, I learn new ways of thinking about and approaching the virtual curation of archaeological objects.  People are generally quite engaged with the idea of examining and study archaeological objects preserved in virtual worlds—and certainly have their attention drawn to our scanner’s bright red lasers!  The objects created from digital artifact models and reproduced by our MakerBot replicator also allow people to engage with the past in ways that are simply not possible with the actual artifacts—some of which are carefully curated hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

The dynamic exchange with professional and avocational archaeologists, as well as members of the general public, has added immeasurably to our Department of Defense Legacy project.  I am often asked: have you thought about this application/approach to virtual curation? Or, what about doing this specific action to solve your particular issue?  And, sometimes my team and I have not considered that particular application/approach or solution to issues with our virtual curation project—but now we can add these helpful suggestions to future objects that we scan….. And the report that we are preparing!

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