4D reconstruction allows sites to be studied after excavation


Alfonso Benito Calvo, a researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigacion sobre la Evolucion Humana (CENIEH), has coordinated a recent study published in the journal Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage on the 4D reconstruction of paleoarchaeological sites using terrestrial laser scanners and 3D processing software, which enables their structures to be studied even after they have been excavated.

4D reconstruction allows sites to be studied after excavation
Scanning process at Atapuerca [Credit: CENIEH]

Moreover, this work, carried out using the equipment of the CENIEH Digital Mapping and 3D Analysis Laboratory, shows how the excavation process evolves over time and assesses the degree of conservation of the sites, monitoring the extent of damage to the sections and surfaces not excavated.

“Our study shows the importance of three-dimensional and sequential documentation of paleoarchaeological excavations, for generating 4D databases (4Ddb), made up of referenced spatial data (such as orthoimages, elevation models, and 3D point grids and clouds) recorded over time, giving us the fourth dimension or 4D”, explains Benito Calvo.

4D reconstruction allows sites to be studied after excavation
3D based products generated at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca)
[Credit: A. Benito Calvo]

The excavation process entails the modification or destruction of sites, so that their 4D reconstruction is a key process in documenting them. In the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain), the Trinchera del Ferrocarril sites (Gran Dolina, Galeria and Sima del Elefante) have undergone scanning since 2012, so the geometry of the stratigraphic surfaces where the archaeological remains are found can be reconstructed.

“Thanks to these techniques, we now have virtual reconstructions of all the Trinchera sites, so they can be studied as though they had never been excavated”, adds Benito Calvo.

The Digital Cartography and 3D Analysis Laboratory of CENIEH has carried out the 4D 
reconstruction of the Gran Dolina site (Atapuerca, Burgos) using terrestrial laser scanners 
and 3D processing software, which allows the study of its structures after excavation 
[Credit: CENIEH]

Several other participants contributed to this work, who are attached to the Department of Geography at the Universidad de Valladolid, the Grupo Espeleologico Edelweiss, the Fundacion Atapuerca, and the Institut Catala de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolucio Social, in Tarragona.

Source: CENIEH [September 21, 2020]