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VCU Archaeology

Virtual Object A1: Sharing Digital Artifact Models Across Cyberspace

By Dr. Bernard K. Means, Project Director

A major reason for creating digital models of archaeological objects is to share items between researchers, whether they are separated by several states or even located on different continents.  Shortly after obtaining the NextEngine 3D scanner, I was contacted—virtually, via email—by Dr. Michael J. Shott of the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio.  He generously offered to share his experiences scanning archaeological objects with his NextEngine 3D scanner—some of which has been published (Shott and Trail 2011, 2012).  His research, and that of his colleague, Brian W. Trail, along these lines focuses on how 3D laser scanning of lithic objects can enhance the accurate measurement of geometric information (not just length, width, and thickness) in an approach known as geometric morphometrics. I refer the interested reader to Shott and Trail’s (2011, 2012) excellent articles on their applied application of the digital topological models generated by the NextEngine 3D scanner in a case study involving a number of Paleoindian points.

Dr. Shott and I exchanged a few more emails, keeping up our virtual correspondence, but were fortunately able to meet and talk in person at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting that was held in Memphis this past April.  We discussed the various potentials—and sometimes maddening limitations—of our 3D scanners.  Shortly after I returned to the Virtual Curation Laboratory, Dr. Shott made available via an electronic online storage medium one of his scanned objects made from a replica of a Paleoindian fluted point.  This replica had been made by Bob Patten for an experimental study by David Hunzicker.  David Hunzicker’s experimental study involved him firing replica Folsom points into animal carcasses and then examining damage to the replica points. Some of these replicas were resharpened and fired again into animal carcasses.  Virtual Object A1 represents a model of replica specimen A after its first use (Dr. Michael Shott, personal communication, May 16, 2012). While you take the time to track down Dave Hunzicker’s research and his collaborations with Bob Patten and Dr. Shott (Hunzicker 2008; Shott et al. 2008), I hope you can enjoy this animation of Virtual Object A1 made by VCU student Daniel Sullivan from the digital scan file provided by Dr. Shott. We will soon be making a physical replica of the scanned Folsom replica using our MakerBot Replicator—thus coming full circle from replica to virtual object to replica.

References Cited

Hunzicker, David (2008) Folsom Projectile Technology: An Experiment in Design, Effectiveness and Efficiency.  Plains Anthropologist 53:291-311.

Shott, Michael J., David A. Hunzicker, and Bob Patten (2008) Pattern and Allometric Measurement of Reduction in Experimental Folsom Bifaces.  Lithic Technology 32(2):203-217.

Shott, Michael J. and Brian W. Trail (2011) Exploring New Approaches to Lithic Analysis: Laser Scanning and Geometric Morphometrics.  Lithic Technology 35 (2):195-220.

Shott, Michael J. and Brian W. Trail (2012) New Developments in Lithic Analysis: Laser Scanning and Digital Modeling.  The SAA Archaeological Record 12 (3):12-17, 38. Available on line at: http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/Publications/thesaaarchrec/Record_May2012.pdf

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