3-D technology brings artifacts to VCU

Melissa Stamp
Contributing Writer

Replicas of artifacts from colonial Virginia to the Sea of Galilee could be found at the Archaeology Around the World event last week on the bottom floor of the VCU Globe building.

The archaeology department in the School of World Studies uses 3-D scanning technology to create the models of bones and other projectiles. The technology was introduced to VCU in 2011 and continues to be a valuable resource. It allows professors to give students a more hands-on and accurate experience without access to a large collection of real artifacts, said anthropology student Ashley McCuistion.

“If the left side of an animal is discovered, we can create a mirror image of what the right side should look like with scanning technology,” said VCU Instructor of Anthropology Bernard Means.

Replicas were spread across several tables with short descriptions of where they were found and what they were. In addition, archaeology students and professors were prepared to answer questions about the artifacts. A large portion of the pieces were scanned from collections at the Virginia Museum of History, the State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeological Project.

When the technology was first introduced, Means started the Virtual Curation Laboratory, a database of archaeological objects from around the world, that uses a NextEngine Desktop 3-D scanner and that several undergraduate students are now a part of. In the past three years they have scanned over 600 artifacts to add to the database.The images created can be used on various applications and on a majority of electronic devices. VCU’s images specifically can be found at virtualcurationmuseum.wordpress.com, an extension of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

Some of the more exotic pieces present at the Archaeology Around the World Event were from the annual study abroad trip to Israel, Excavating Tel Lachish, where students spent three weeks working alongside a pre-existing dig partnered with Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

According to VCU sociology student Russell Johnson the most common findings during these digs are pottery, bone and flint. Occasionally more exciting objects are found, like the bronze tools Johnson found.

In the upcoming year the study abroad trip will expand to Palestine where students will have the opportunity to study anthropology and religious topics alongside native students.

“This trip is a high impact learning environment, it does a lot at one time,” said VCU religious studies and archaeology professor Jonathan Waybright.

According to Means a similar event will be hosted this spring by the school of world studies that will be more interactive and exhibit more models of artifacts from neighboring museums and from the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

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