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Conference Proceeding

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3-D laser scanning, Mesoamerica, stone sculpture


The use of close-range, three-dimensional laser scanning for the documentation of ancient Mesoamerican sculpted artifacts (e.g., stone, ceramic, stucco, wood) provides significant advantages in issues of conservation, research, analysis, and dissemination. A series of case studies will illustrate how scan data have been used as a core element in the development of expandable, research databases that offer substantial benefits and advancements to archaeological investigations. Results from this approach have substantially expanded opportunities for international study and collaborative research initiatives. Innovative analytical techniques for the examination and interpretation of Mesoamerican sculpture, the development of research and educational resources, the recording of metadata, and methods of electronic dissemination are discussed.

The results from projects in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala will show how researchers have access to data sets that allow for comparative and metrological analyses of size, shape, features, and surface detail of Mesoamerican carved artifacts. Examples include the use of close-range scanning technology as a foundational referent that improve, enhance, and increase the extraction of the detail and information carved and encoded on Mesoamerican sculpture. These objects can be analyzed, visualized, measured, and evaluated more effectively and precisely than if the researcher were in the field or had the physical object in their presence. Perhaps the most exciting capability of 3-D scanning of Mesoamerican sculpture is its ability to capture data that can be used to rescue or resurrect carved details on damaged or degraded monuments that have not been previously discernable.

In addition to other advantages produced by this laser scanning technique, it is possible to disseminate these data resources to an international audience of researchers, educators, students, and interested parties via web-based platforms. This type of presentation offers exceptional opportunities for the development of specialized techniques and improved methods for epigraphic and iconographic analysis and interpretation. Along with these benefits, however, come a variety of disparate issues that must be addressed. Foremost are the rights and privileges of the owners or stakeholders of the artifacts that have to be recognized and protected. Potential problems that could arise from the dissemination of the data must be identified and safeguards put in place to prevent their improper use.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Presented at the Computer Applications to Archaeology 2009, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, March 22-26, 2009

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