Center for Digital Heritage and Geospatial Information Faculty and Staff Publications

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Imaging and laser scanning technologies, associated advancements in methods for using the data collected with these instruments, and the rise and availability of mobile platforms such as UAVs for deploying these technologies, are greatly assisting professional archeologists in locating, documenting, managing, and preserving archeological and heritage sites. Reality Capture methods- defined here as the integration of techniques that often include imaging, spatial, and 3D laser scan data - provide rapid and cost efficient means for recording accurate and highly representative information and conditions about the world around us. Digitization can assist with preservation, perpetuation, and provide archival security against loss, damage, or imperilment.

These technologies are being used to digitally document, survey, and accurately represent in three dimensions, archaeological sites, features, objects, and collections. These survey and documentation strategies are becoming more common place in the archaeological and heritage preservation toolkit as prices for hardware and software continue to come down, ease of use and post-processing and computer capabilities increase, and archiving, accessibility, and file sharing formats are resolved.

The variety of price points and availability of tools including the ubiquity and power of personal cameras and mobile devices, has led to a growing increase in the number of both avocational and cross-over users who target heritage, museum, and archaeological sites as interesting applications and market opportunities. Open source data sites for heritage including 3D object sharing and monetized model download platforms have recently become more prolific, and there are numerous examples of archaeological sites and objects portrayed and made available through these type of platforms that largely showcase exoticism, and often have little to no associated context or meaning.

When in the public domain, data from these 3D, imaging, and spatial technologies, can also have ethical implications, and may be used for unintended consequences or in the case of 3D data that is tied to geospatial location information, may even be used by looters in their quest to locate sites and artifacts. Digitization of museum or collection objects, artifacts, and features can also bring concerns for commercialization or cultural appropriation, with objects depicted for their exoticism and often lacking contextual details.

The purpose of this project is to develop an understanding of the current state of 3D and emerging related technologies, and to examine potentials for best practice and use, as well as navigate considerations for ethical concerns. These technologies are helping to make data and information broadly available and accessible, improving the ability to share, interpret, and digitally preserve archaeological information globally. The ability to rapidly and accurately document the world around us is revolutionizing fields of archeology and museum sciences and is creating new areas of research integration and curriculum development. A thoughtful consideration for appropriateness of use and attention to areas of potential conflict and concern, will help managers, archaeologists, heritage, and museum specialists working in our nation’s parks, to navigate culturally sensitivity and property rights issues, and become aware of ethical challenges connected to the application of these tools.

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