Archaeology Must Move Forward Technology

Archaeology is important in the construction industry, and one company in particular is challenging some long-held beliefs.

Headland Archaeology is constantly striving to improve efficiencies by investing in cutting-edge technology. Headland Archaeology’s managing director, Tim Holden, explains.

Archaeologists’ primary goal is to record features and discoveries in order to preserve them before they are destroyed forever. Traditionally, this has taken the form of drawings, written descriptions, and photographs, which takes time and is not always as accurate as we would like.

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Archaeology, like many other industries, is benefiting greatly from technological advancements as time passes.

At Headland, we have a proactive R&D department whose sole goal is to improve efficiency through the use of technology. Clients are more concerned than ever before with protecting their bottom line. As a result, it is critical that we improve our service offering to ensure that we can meet their financial constraints while also saving them time and money.

We’ve had a digital survey system in place for a long time, but thanks to recent technological advances, we’re now able to use it in conjunction with photogrammetry to produce fully dimensioned 3D digital models.

This technique works exceptionally well on a variety of features, including underground archaeology and standing features such as standing walls and even entire buildings.

We must take numerous digital photos from various positions and angles, including a bird’s eye view, as part of the technique. The photogrammetry software then combines all of the images to create a 3D photograph that can be rotated and interrogated.

This becomes the primary record of many excavated features, with sections, elevations, and plans all produced to millimetre precision previously unattainable.

There is still the traditional element where publications will require line-drawings, which can be prepared quickly and accurately using computer software, but this technique really shines when used within online publications, which are becoming increasingly popular.

The images can be used by archaeologists and clients to enhance online presentations, bringing the excavation to life.

We spent time researching how this technology can improve the record and save time producing the detailed, and now largely obsolete, pencil and tracing paper drawings.

Our technical team is constantly looking for new ways to adapt these methods, and we have implemented a rolling training programme to ensure that all of our strong team members are trained to use this technology across our office network.

Clients, particularly architects, have been very impressed with this new method, particularly as an alternative to standard surveying and costly laser scans, and the feedback has been extremely positive.

Because we use photogrammetry for everyday on-site recording, we can effectively contribute to any Building Information Modelling project (BIM). We can generate low-cost scanning data from our monitoring work, which can then be fed into the BIM project to inform future construction decisions.

We could, for example, provide a 3D model of archaeological deposits that could influence the placement of services, foundations, and temporary enabling works on site.

We are encouraged by the improvement in our service as a result of implementing the appropriate technology, and it is critical that archaeologists invest in new techniques and methods to ensure that they do not live up to the dinosaur stereotype.

Last Updated on December 30, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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