Oct 19, 2016 | By Benedict

Researchers at China’s Northwest University are using 3D scanners to digitally preserve the skulls and bones of women found at burial pits around the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The necropolis is the site of the “Terracotta Army,” a collection of thousands of military statues.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently aired a documentary titled “The Greatest Tomb on Earth: Secrets of Ancient China.” In the program, new research was brought to light which suggests that ancient Greek artists could have assisted in the design of China’s famous Terracotta Army, a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang. The findings have rekindled public interest in one of the most incredible archaeological excavations in human history, prompting 3D scanning company Artec 3D to reveal its role in recent archaeological efforts there.

According to Artec, researchers at Northwest University, located in Xi’an, China, have been using Artec 3D scanners to capture the shape and texture of skulls and other bones of young females found at burial pits located around the ancient mausoleum, which spans almost four miles in circumference. By 3D scanning and digitally remodeling the ancient remains, the researchers have been able to understand more about who these women were and where they came from, gradually lifting the lid on the secrets of the ancient tomb and its 38-year construction.

3D scanning and modeling ancient remains - Images: BBC / Northwest University

“The practice of 3D scanning has quickly become a vital tool for historical preservation both on site and in the lab,” said Artyom Yukhin, president and CEO of Artec 3D. “The ability to easily create a detailed 3D model is invaluable, when dealing with artifacts and remains that are over 2,000 years old and will inevitably degrade over time. The adoption of 3D scanning has also allowed archeology, paleontology and anthropology to become globally collaborative practices.”

For the 3D scanning operation at the mausoleum in Xi’an, the Northwest University researchers used Artec’s Spider 3D scanner, a handheld scanner capable of processing up to one million points per second and boasting 3D resolution of up to 0.1 mm with 0.05 mm accuracy. The scanner captures the geometry of an object by projecting light in a pattern that allows for distance to be calculated through triangulation. “Artec Spider captured the texture of the bones with incredible detail that could be seen both during the actual scanning process and in the final 3D model,” said Li Kang, Researcher for Northwest University’s Department of Geology. “In addition to using Artec’s technology for heritage preservation, the University also collaborates with police and uses Artec scanners for facial reconstruction.”

Artec Spider 3D scanner

Using data from CT scans, staff at Northwest University have created a medical database of over 2,000 3D heads of Chinese people that can be used to create 3D mesh models for the facial reconstruction of unidentified skulls, such as unearthed ancient remains or victims of crimes. Eventually, 3D scanning and modeling techniques such as this could be used by researchers to determine whether an ancient subject might indeed have made the journey from Greece in order to pass on artistic expertise to the Chinese terracotta sculptors.

3D scanning has been used by other research groups to find out more about the ancient tomb and, in particular, the Terracotta Army. Two years ago, researchers from University College London began using the technology to determine whether the 8,000 soldiers depicted in the Terracotta Army were based on real people. After obtaining 3D scans of many of the statues’ faces, the researchers were able to analyze the 3D models to try and determine whether variations in facial features and expression were the result of artistic freedom or whether the statues were intended to depict individual soldiers of various ethnicities.

Small section of the Terracotta Army



Posted in 3D Scanning



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David G. Jones wrote at 10/20/2016 7:49:34 PM:

Research continues to miss the most interesting point: why the terra cotta "army" was constructed. It had nothing to do with the idiotic notion that the army would "protect the emperor in the afterlife." The emperor was no fool. He knew clay statues would protect nobody. He ended two hundred years iof war and established the empire without the need for conflict. His methods were so perfect he constructed the array to commemorate the end of war and to show the people of the empire what the costs of war were. He outlawed weapons and war. That is the central point - the central point that continues to be missed. http://www.slideshare.net/ShibumiMC/the-first-emperor-of-china-fiction-fact We need to the life and achievements of the greatest peacemaker ever.

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