3D Woodmen of the World Headstones from Oak Grove Cemetery in Nacogdoches, Texas

Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time learning how to use a free photogrammetry program called 123D Catch, and have put it to use documenting various headstones in Oak Grove Cemetery. While at first this was strictly a learning experience, we are now working on an article focused upon the Woodmen of the World markers (see videos for three of these below). I have always been captivated by works of art that trick the eye–at least initially–into believing that they are seeing something else (metal wood, etc.), and on a recent walkabout through Nacogdoches, Texas, these markers caught my attention.

My experience with 123D Catch began when a colleague, Mason Miller of AmaTerra, emailed a 3D model of a Caddo vessel to me that Chase Earles had manufactured for a recent project. While I still think that laser scanning is a better option for those of us rooted in quantitative studies of material culture, having the capacity to create a 3D model on the fly with nothing more than photographs has some pretty strong appeal.

Three years ago, a colleague and I tried to scan some recently-conserved headstones at this same cemetery with our handheld scanner, and failed miserably due to the high reflectivity of the stone surface (lasers and reflectors do not work well together). This disappointed my colleague greatly, since she was hoping to use those scans in her public history research. Needless to say, she was rather excited when she saw these models.

Additionally, I have been able to import the models into Geomagic Design X, where they can be reverse-engineered. Once imported, I quickly found out that I had to manually add a measurement for the model to scale properly. Lucky for me, the cemetery is just down the street from our university, so I grabbed a tape measure and went for a short walk. Once I was back in the lab, it did not take long to get the measurement added, and a new .stl file downloaded to start the modeling process.

There are a total of seven Woodmen markers at Oak Grove Cemetery. I have reached out to Woodmen of the World for more information on these markers, and (with any luck) should hear back from them soon. We will be sure to share the other models with you as soon as they are ready. Until then, I will continue documenting at least one headstone per day on my way to work (as the weather permits) – much more to come on this.

Keep up with our 123D Catch project at Oak Grove Cemetery here.


Written by zselden

Selden (PhD, Texas A&M University, 2013) is a US Marine Corps veteran, cyclist, kayaker, backpacker, hiker, climber, fisherman and general all-around outdoor enthusiast. His research is focused at the confluence of archaeological methods and digital technology, and he is particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, predictive modeling, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.


  1. Zac, it’s worth noting this app is an Autodesk product which is among the best in the business for product support and development.

    Steve Davis


  2. as a personal note, i kind of wish it didn’t sway around so much. Its so hard to see the details of these beautiful headstones. In the nest batch maybe it could take a nice slow spin before it dances about to show off the top details? Other than that, it looks like you could touch it and even make a 3D print replica to be handled without damaging the original piece.


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