University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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3D Laser Scanning and Virtual Reconstructions, their integration as research and educational tools for representing the past. Case of study: the Virtual Roman Baths of Edeta.

Last modified: 2012-03-27


In the last few years 3D laser scanning techniques have been used more frequently as a means for recording archaeological evidence. This is at least in part thanks to the reliability of the 3D laser scanner. Archaeologists are recognising its extraordinary accuracy, hardly ever paralleled by other instruments. Moreover, the captured 3D point clouds correctly preserve the dimensions of the scanned archaeological information and can therefore be stored and used for future applications. On the other hand, 3D reconstructions of cultural heritage remains often serve purely educational purposes, disregarding their analytical potential. We believe that a combination of both the educational and analytical use of 3D reconstructions might lead to interesting new approaches that will be of interest to a more diverse audience.

This project puts an emphasis on the process of reconstructing the Roman Baths of Llíria, Valencia, the ancient iberian Edeta. The site has recently been deeply excavated and a well-preserved area is currently being converted into a permanent public exhibition. The work carried out involved two separate tasks. Firstly, the 3D laser scanning of the entire site including the masonry and all other archaeological remains like fragments of columns, cornices and so on. Secondly, a hypothetical 3D model of the baths was built using the data captured by the 3D point clouds of the objects scanned.

Handling high resolution 3D point clouds involves a number of issues, in particular when dealing with large sites, as they need to be significantly optimised. Model optimisation very often means that alot of detail will be lost. High resolution results have been obtained, however, in studies focused on the reconstruction of small objects. 3D reconstructions of large sites unfortunately still require using a relatively low number of vertices for them to be easily managed, rendered or, sometimes, animated. This is particularly true when the high resolution model aims to reconstruct real world lighting, texturing or atmospheric variations of the rendered environment.

This paper will address this issue by illustrating the capabilities of 3D Laser scanning for generating accurate virtual reconstructions of past environments that can serve both educational and analytical purposes. Vectorial redrawing of the meshes was used to intensely minimise the 3D point clouds and to create simple solids that allow for easier handling in 3D modelling software. In addition, a combination of low polygon hypothetical 3D models with the textured original 3D meshes has been used to stimulate alternative analyses of the site and, eventually, to extend the general public’s knowledge of the cultural heritage these models represent through highly realistic reproductions.


3D laser scanning; 3D modelling; virtual reality; Llíria; Edeta; 3D point cloud; roman baths