Mar 27, 2018 | By Tess

3D scanning technologies are revealing all sorts of things this week: from shocking mummy discoveries, to the inside of a 700-year-old well in Scotland, to a newly uncovered Bronze Age site on Ramsey Island in Wales. Let’s see how 3D scanning and modeling have made these discoveries possible.

3D scanning an ancient Egyptian coffin

At Sydney University, a team of archaeologists were understandably shocked to discover that a coffin, believed for over a century to have been empty, actually contained a mummified body. The mummy, which has in fact been encased inside the coffin for roughly 2,500 years, is now being studied with the help of 3D scanning technologies.

(Image: Macquairie Medical Imaging)

Unfortunately, due to looting in Ancient Egyptian grave sites, the mummy’s body has not been preserved very well, and finding out more about the mystery person buried inside the sarcophagus has been a challenge.

Still, the research team, led by one Dr. Jamie Fraser, has been working hard to learn more about the mummy, and has made some revelations thanks to state-of-the-art technology like 3D scanning.

The first clue about the mummy was found on the coffin itself, which bears hieroglyphics indicating that the person buried inside was a priestess named Mer-Neith-it-es. And though this might seem like conclusive evidence, it is not always the case that ancient coffins actually contain the person marked.

To gain more information, the archaeologists have captured detailed CT scans of the remains and transformed them into 3D models for careful analysis. From the 3D models of the feet and ankle bones, the team believes they have uncovered an adult person over the age of 30. If they can get a hold of some toenails, the mummy could even be carbon dated.

Edinburgh Castle well gets the 3D scanning treatment

A 700-year-old well built into the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland was recently captured using laser scanning and transformed into a 3D model.

The well, named Fore Well, is one of of the oldest parts of the famous Edinburgh Castle and is dug deep into the volcanic rock hill that the castle is built upon. In medieval times, the Fore Well was the main source of water for the castle.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Interestingly, the 3D models of the well have been compared with survey drawings done by architect William Thomas Oldrieve in 1912 and bear a remarkable resemblance. The comparison showcases the accuracy of Oldrieve’s hand measurements drawn over a century ago that were, of course, done without the use of contemporary scanning equipment.

Ultimately, the 3D model of the historical well will provide important insight into the history of the castle—and how best to preserve it.

As Rachel Pickering, Cultural Resources Advisor at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), explains: “Very little survives of the medieval castle and it can be hard to understand or appreciate how the early castle would have looked. Exploration such as this helps us to look at the castle in a new light and will continue to help us reconstruct and bring to life the lesser known aspects of the castle's past.”

Bronze Age sight discovered on Ramsey Island in Wales

On Ramsey Island, off the coast of southwest Wales, a laser scanning mission recently revealed the existence of a previously unmarked Bronze Age landscape. The new archaeological findings were distinguished by a scan taken from the air, which has also been transformed into a highly detailed 3D model.

(Image: CHERISH project)

The scanning initiative was commissioned by Climate Heritage and Environments of Reefs, Islands and Headlands (CHERISH), an EU-funded programme based primarily in Ireland and Wales. The scan was originally meant to capture data for the study of climate change, so finding a new archaeological site was something of a surprise.

The 3D model of the site reveals Bronze Age round barrows, a prehistoric coastal promontory fort, and the remains of what could have been a chapel. The discoveries will be further studied by archaeologists and could present new insights into how humans existed on Ramsey Island over the past 4,000 to 5,000 years.

 

 

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