3D Scanning Workshop at SMU

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Department of Anthropology at SMU to give a workshop on 3D scanning. The repository is host to some very important Caddo vessels from the Sam Kaufman (or Roitsch) site, so I paired up with Dr. Sunday Eiselt and her crew to document the vessels in 3D. We thought that this would be a great opportunity for the undergraduate and graduate students to get some hands-on experience with a wide range of scanners, and it worked out very well (click here for more).

In addition to the 3D documentation, I took a variety of high-resolution photos for each vessel, and recorded regular suite of qualitative attributes (temper, firing core, decorative motif, etc.). These data will augment the results of the upcoming asymmetry and geometric morphometric analyses, and will then be used in the final network analysis.

(this is a 3D figure-activate it by clicking on the “play” button, then click/drag to rotate)

Dr. Eiselt’s students caught on quickly (more here), and were soon learning how to edit and process their own scans. While I had scanned these vessels during a previous visit, I used the workshop to test a new project-driven workflow that ended up working better for the students. In the image below, you can see one of Dr. Eiselt’s students scanning a vessel with the Creaform scanner, there is an active scan running with the Konica-Minolta Vivid 9i in the light box, and another scanner (NextEngineHD) running on the other side. We also worked through some of the same vessels with the ZScanner700CX.


By the end of the first day, everyone had the basics down pretty well. On the second day, a selected group of students worked through a variety of standard post-processing practices on scans that were generated the day before (and a few new ones). In this exercise, we learned why some scanning strategies work better than others. We also spent extra time with the NextEngineHD, since they are hoping to purchase one for the lab at SMU.

In addition to the laser scanners, we also learned how to make 3D models using 123D Catch, the free photogrammetry software provided by Autodesk, of Woodmen of the World headstones at a local cemetery (see more on that here). I am really looking forward to seeing some of their new models posted in the near future (see their first model of a headstone here).

In fact, the students recently started a blog (http://3darchaeologysmu.blogspot.com/) where we can all keep tabs on their progress. I often get caught up in the scannning process, and forget how exciting it can be to learn how to make (and reverse-engineer) your own models. It was nice to see how engaged the students were, and how thoughtful they were regarding how these new tools might augment and extend their current analyses. I think that you will soon be seeing a number of 3D scans and 3D models coming out of this program. We send our best to Dr. Eiselt and her crew of (very) talented students at SMU!

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Written by zselden

Selden (PhD, Texas A&M University, 2013) is a husband, father, 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. Thank you for taking the time to visit us at SMU! The curation team is excited to continue using what you taught us throughout the rest of the semester!


  2. Thank you so much for coming to SMU and teaching us about this amazing side of archaeology!


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