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Tunnel Vision

Documenting Excavations in Three Dimensions with Lidar Technology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Thomas G. Garrison
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Kaprielian Hall, 3620 S Vermont Ave., Ste. 352, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089 (thomas.garrison@usc.edu)
Dustin Richmond
Affiliation:
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (drichmond@eng.ucsd.edu)
Perry Naughton
Affiliation:
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (pnaughto@eng.ucsd.edu)
Eric Lo
Affiliation:
Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (eklo@eng.ucsd.edu)
Sabrina Trinh
Affiliation:
Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (saytrinh@gmail.com)
Zachary Barnes
Affiliation:
Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (zach.a.barnes@ gmail.com)
Albert Lin
Affiliation:
Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (a5lin@ucsd.edu)
Curt Schurgers
Affiliation:
Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (cschurgers@eng.ucsd.edu)
Ryan Kastner
Affiliation:
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093 (kastner@ucsd.edu)
Sarah E. Newman
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Wesleyan University, 281 High St., Middletown, CT 06459 (senewman@wesleyan.edu)
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Abstract

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Archaeological tunneling is a standard excavation strategy in Mesoamerica. The ancient Maya built new structures atop older ones that were no longer deemed usable, whether for logistical or ideological reasons. This means that as archaeologists excavate horizontal tunnels into ancient Maya structures, they are essentially moving back in time. As earlier constructions are encountered, these tunnels may deviate in many directions in order to document architectural remains. The resultant excavations often become intricate labyrinths, extending dozens of meters. Traditional forms of archaeological documentation, such as photographs, plan views, and profile drawings, are limited in their ability to convey the complexity of tunnel excavations. Terrestrial Lidar (light detection and ranging) instruments are able to generate precise 3D models of tunnel excavations. This article presents the results of a model created with a Faro™ Focus 3D 120 Scanner of tunneling excavations at the site of El Zotz, Guatemala. The lidar data document the excavations inside a large mortuary pyramid, including intricately decorated architecture from an Early Classic (A.D. 300–600) platform buried within the present form of the structure. Increased collaboration between archaeologists and scholars with technical expertise maximizes the effectiveness of 3D models, as does presenting digital results in tandem with traditional forms of documentation.

La excavación de túneles es una metodología común en Mesoamérica. Los antiguos mayas construyeron edificios nuevos encima de los que ya no eran usables, quizás por razones logísticas o ideológicas. Este quiere decir que cuando los arqueólogos excavan túneles horizontales en las estructuras mayas, están pasando atrás en tiempo con su profundidad. Cuando se encuentra subestructuras, estos túneles pueden desviar en direcciones varias en el proceso de registrar la arquitectura enterrada, la cual normalmente es mejor conservada que los edificios más tardes de la superficie. Las excavaciones muchas veces se convierten en laberintos, extendiendo para docenas de metros. La documentación arqueológica tradicional, en la forma de fotografías, plantas, y perfiles tienen límites en lo que se pueden mostrar de la complejidad de los túneles. Los instrumentos de Lidar (detección de luz y rango) terrestres se pueden generar modelos 3D precisos de las excavaciones en túneles, documentando los rasgos arqueológicos con detalle increíble. Este articulo presenta los resultados de un modelo creado con un Faro™ Focus 3D 120 Scanner de las excavaciones en túneles en el sitio arqueológico El Zotz, Guatemala. Los datos de Lidar adquirido registran las excavaciones adentro de una gran pirámide mortuoria, incluyendo arquitectura elaborada con estuco modelado del Clásico Temprano (300–600 d.C.) de una plataforma enterrada. Los datos coleccionados se puede usar para crear caminatas virtuales de las excavaciones y conservan toda la información de los túneles aún están rellenados. La colaboración entre arqueólogos y especialistas en tecnologías digitales aumenta la eficaz de los modelos en 3D, y también la presentación de estos modelos juntos con la documentación tradicional.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2016

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