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12 December 2010
Catalhoyuk more accessible with 3D imaging

The University of California at Merced's Kolligian Library (5200 North Lake Rd, Merced, California, USA) is taking up two stories to host a unique exhibit. In conjunction with Prof. Maurizio Forte and his student team, the library is showing a collection of artifacts from the Anatolian neolithic village of Çatalhöyük, one of the first places to show evidence of the development of agriculture. What makes this exhibit different from most of the others is the fact that this one consists solely of 3D reconstructions of the village's artifacts. It is an approach that has attracted global attention to the school.
     During their last excavation season, the students and Forte employed two large-format 3D laser scanners and several hand-held ones to gather the data used to build the exhibit. This approach lends the ability not only to educate students outside the field and the public, but to make communication between experts more effective. How much more likely would it be that a pottery expert could identify a piece of pottery from a 3D print than from a photo? Forte also points to the fact that archaeologists destroy the matrix and the context of any find they pull up. 3D scanning has the potential to retain the objects in situ, in a fashion.
     The amount of technology students brought was unheard of ($500,000 worth), including three laser scanners and three additional scanners for smaller artifacts, Justine Issavi - a UC Merced graduate student in world cultures who went to Çatalhöyük - said. Julia Cline, a UC Merced anthropology major and one of the researchers, said she scanned artifacts and created 3D prints of them. The prints were used to create replicas of the artifacts, which are in glass cases inside the library. "For scholars and students who aren't at the site, if you can send them the scans, then anyone not at the site can get really finely detailed 3D artifacts," she said. "For pottery, it's going to be a growing field. Because before you only have drawings and photographs, but this is a more efficient way of keeping those in a record."
     The exhibition is on display until December 17.
Edited from Merced Sun-Star (7 December 2010), Read Write Web (8 December 2010)

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