3D Scanning Workshop at SMU

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

In addition to the 3D documentation, we collected high-resolution photos for each vessel with a standard suite of qualitative attributes (temper, firing core, decorative motif, etc.). These data will augment the results of the upcoming asymmetry and geometric morphometric analyses.

(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 previously scanned a few of the vessels, 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. On the second day, a selected group of students worked through a set of standard post-processing protocols for scans generated the day before (and a few surprise anomalies that I brought with me). In this exercise, we learned why some scanning strategies work better than others, and why it is important to know that information before starting a new scanning project. We spent some 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. I look forward to seeing some of their new models posted in the near future (see their first model of a headstone here).


Written by zselden

I am a research associate in the Center for Regional Heritage Research at Stephen F. Austin State University, where my work is focused at the confluence of archaeology, art, engineering, computer science, and the humanities. I am particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, 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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