Laser Scanning a Roman Bath House

Binchester banner #1The summer weather has arrived in England and that means field work for the Digital Building Heritage Group. Steffan and Jonathan have been up in Northumberland at Binchester Roman fort just north of Bishop Auckland with our AHRC Connected Communities partners from the University of Durham and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Duraham and Northumberland (Arc and Arc) laser scanning the Roman bath house complex that is being uncovered there (latest new here Binchester Blog). The excavations are in their fifth season on this site and the fifty or so volunteers are being managed by Dr. David Petts of the University of Durham’s Department of Archaeology, a co-investigator on our Connected Communities project. The level of preservation of the ancient building fabric being revealed in this community archaeology project is extraordinary for the UK, with Roman walls, over 6ft high, painted Roman wall plaster and a range of exciting artefacts. The weather was hot and sunny, ideal for work outdoors and Steffan and Jonathan captured a great deal of the site using our Faro Focus 3D laser scanner. Some photogrammetry work was undertaken as well.

Laser Scan wide area view by the DBHG of the excavation site at Binchester Roman Fort, June 2014.

Laser Scan wide area view by the DBHG of the excavation site at Binchester Roman Fort, June 2014.

The laser scanning was used to record the excavation as it was this week and will form the basis of a detailed digital reconstruction of the bath house complex which will eventually form part of a mobile device app and on-line resource to be used to interpret the Binchester Roman excavations. Capturing ancient architecture like this is vital as it is not clear how long this particular excavation site will remain open – funding cuts may mean that the excavations have to be filled in leaving nothing but a flat field. The laser scan data and the digital reconstruction may be the best method of communicating what the remains were actually like particularly if the site is filled in but may also help promote the excellent archaeological work going on here and so prevent site closure. Interestingly this is the third Roman bath house the Digital Building Heritage Group have digitally reconstructed, we produced reconstructions of the Jewry Wall baths and the Bath lane Baths in Leicester a few years ago. For these we relied on traditional hand measured and drawn archaeological records but at Binchester we have the advantage of a laser scanner – which improves the fidelity of the reconstruction enormously. This is only the first part of this particular AHRC connected communities project – further consultations and workshops with the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland will bring the community right into the heart of the visualization process, allowing them to interpret their own finds and their contexts and shape the reconstruction with their own very special experiences of the dig.

Laser scan of the Roman Bath House at Binchester Roman Fort, UK being excavated in June 2014

Laser scan of the Roman Bath House at Binchester Roman Fort, UK being excavated in June 2014

And here’s a close up showing the degree of resolution achieved over the site, about 0.2mm!

Close up on one of the laser scans showing the dense packing of data points. Note that true colour is captured for each data point in addition to its spacial coordinates. Colour can be useful for for material analysis and other forms of interpretation, especially for surface decoration, pigmentation and staining.

Close up on one of the laser scans showing the dense packing of data points. Note that true colour is captured for each data point in addition to its spacial coordinates. Colour can be useful for for material analysis and other forms of interpretation, especially for surface decoration, pigmentation and staining.

 

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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