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VCU Archaeology

Each Replicated Artifact Had a Story to Tell: An Intern’s Story

by Athena Beskenis, Intern, Virtual Curation Laboratory

As a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Anthropology, I have had the privilege of interning for Dr. Means in the Virtual Curation Laboratory (VCL) this fall semester.  Initially, I gained interest in three-dimensional (3D) artifact scanning and printing technology when Dr. Means brought in replicas of historical artifacts from Jamestown into class.  The following semester, I applied for an internship in the VCL and was thrilled to be accepted into the program.  This internship presented me with several opportunities and expanded my knowledge of 3D scanning technology.

In the Rediscovery Jamestown archaeology laboratory

In the Rediscovery Jamestown archaeology laboratory

During my time in the lab, I have become well versed in using Next Engine software to edit the various artifacts that were scanned.  When I traveled to Jamestown with fellow interns, I truly obtained a better understanding of why 3D models are important to not only archaeologists but also to the general public.  I have come to realize that there are many benefits to digitizing artifacts in 3D such as documenting, advancing research, fostering collaboration, and preserving historical collections.

Speaking to Mike Makin at the International Day of Archaeology event

Speaking to Mike Makin at the International Day of Archaeology event

Back in October, I was able to engage the public in the process of 3D scanning at the celebration of Archaeology Day event held at VCU.  I got to see in action that hands on experience with replicated artifacts provides individuals with greater detail of the artifact. Visitors were absolutely mind blown at the fact that each replicated artifact had a story to tell.  Actually, there were two stories behind each artifact. One story is concerned with the history behind the artifact such as where it came from or how it was used.  The other story regards the lengthy process of replicating the artifact comprised of documenting, taking photos, scanning, editing, and printing.

Holding replica Clovis Points

Holding replica Clovis Points

Towards the end of the semester, I had the honor of presenting research conducted with fellow Anthropology major, Eleanor Mudd, on the “Techniques and Attributes of Variation in Clovis Points” at the VCU School of World Studies Student Research Conference.  I printed 3D Clovis points using the MakerBot Replicator with Dr. Means. Having an assortment of Clovis point replicates enabled us to more easily demonstrate to professors and students how the projectile points were originally manufactured during the Clovis era. The public were attracted to the exhibit due to the 3D Clovis points and wanted to know more about the different techniques that had been used in the past.

So far, the Virtual Curation Laboratory has taught me a lot about the work and dedication that goes into creating printed 3D artifacts.  Along the way, I have been fortunate to meet subject matter experts and interact with fellow anthropology students and faculty. I am looking forward to next semester in the Lab!



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