There's been no end to the stories about 3D in the field of entertainment. It's the death of film! It's the salvation of a moribund art form! It's a flash in the pan! I'm all like whatever. Where 3D is really exciting is where it brings our inaccessible, buried past to life and light. In archaeology.
Lidar has been used to unveil the three-dimensional reality of a lost city and 3D printing has been used to create life-sized, ultra-detailed copies of Tutankhamun's mummy. The latest efforts have used 3D laser mapping to recreate a medieval castle's dungeon and a neolithic village's holy objects.
This project in the English Midlands in the first step toward preserving the geologically and archaeologically important caves that exist beneath and around Nottingham Castle. (Yes, that Nottingham.)
"All caves that can be physically accessed will be surveyed with a 3D laser scanner, producing a full measured record of the caves in three dimensions. This 'point cloud' of millions of individual survey points can be cut and sliced into plans and sections, 'flown through' in short videos, and examined in great detail either on the web through the TruView Internet Explorer plug-in or on a fixed PC with suitable software."
All project data is being collected in a database for both record-keeping and for future project and modeling.
The University of California at Merced's Kolligian Library is taking up two stories to host a unique exhibit. In conjunction with Prof. Maurizio Forte and his eight-student team, the library is showing a collection of artifacts from the Anatolian neolithic village of Çatalhöyük, one of the first places to show evidence of the development of agriculture.
The difference between this and most exhibits is that this one consists solely of 3D reconstructions of the village's artifacts. It is an approach that has attracted global attention to the school.
"Virtual models, 3D stereo pictures, digital videos, multimedia data and 3D prints of artifacts make it possible to explore the complexity of the fascinating world of archaeology and the hidden features of the site."
During their last excavation season, the students and Forte employed two large-format 3D laser scanners and several hand-held ones to gather the data used to build the exhibit.
This approach lends the ability not only to educate students outside the field and the public, but to make communication between experts more effective. How much more likely would it be that a pottery expert could identify a piece of pottery from a 3D print than from a photo? Forte also points to the fact that archaeologists destroy the matrix and the context of any find they pull up. 3D scanning has the potential to retain the objects in situ, in a fashion.
We often talk about technology speeding our journey into the future. But it seems to me that it is equally powerful in increasing our exploration into the past. Perhaps this theoretical approach to a technological singularity is in effect a kind of perceptual Big Bang, with information receding from us infinitely in both directions, even as it achieves a sharper resolution.