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A team from the Harvard Semitic Museum conducted a 3D scan of a series of three sarcophagi from Ancient Egypt
Archeology involves a meticulous fixation of the material found. Thanks to 3D technology, the historical heritage can be preserved and restored. Scientists from the Harvard Semitic Museum performed a 3D scan of the three sarcophagi of ancient Egypt. Now the internal structure of the coffins and the unique painting can be viewed using the special SketchFab platform, designed for three-dimensional modeling. The project became part of a large-scale work on the digitization of artifacts of ancient Egyptian civilizations that are published on the Internet.
Work with a series of sarcophagi was carried out in January of this year. Detailed volumetric scanning and photo processing were carried out for three weeks. Employees of the Amon-Ra Temple in Karnak were buried in ancient tombs: a priest and metal engraver Padimutu, the gatekeeper of Ankhonsu and singer Mut-i-i. All three sarcophagi were made in the period 945-712. BC.
Ancient burials were found by Theodore Davis and Percy Newberry in 1901 and donated to the Harvard Semitic Museum. The Middle Eastern artifact repository has been operating since 1889. Now it has collected more than 40 thousand exhibits. The studied sarcophagi were in the museum collection for more than a hundred years, until it became possible to study them more thoroughly through 3D scanning. The technology helps to preserve information about historical values in digital form with impeccable accuracy.
To implement the project, the team took an Artec Leo 3D scanner, a Sony RX100 VI camera, which allows you to take high-resolution images for subsequent photogrammetry. Scientists were given an exciting opportunity to explore not only the external part, but also the internal structure of sarcophagi. Most burials have not been opened for millennia, so the chance to “see” and capture the sarcophagus became a reality only after the discovery of 3D technology.
In addition to 3D scanning and building archaeological photo layouts, the team performed a number of classic tasks: measuring objects, testing pigment, analyzing residues, taking wood samples.
The challenges and benefits of teamwork
The most serious problem was the need for careful handling of 3000-year-old sarcophagi. Fragile multi-ton coffins needed to be moved and rotated to meticulously document each side of the structure. Every day, a team of 12 specialists took samples, compiled descriptions in incredibly difficult conditions. True professionals have always helped each other, so the work was completed without excesses. Despite the lack of time, the fragility of materials and the need for high-tech equipment, scientists were able to make thorough 3D scans and compose photogrammetric images on them.
Using the programs Zbrush, Agisoft Metashape, 3DS Max and xNormal, scientists from Indiana University processed the data and generated a 3D model of each sarcophagus. Advanced software reveals the possibilities of photogrammetry, simplifies the analysis and post-processing of received frames, helps to obtain the most accurate results.
3D layouts are now available in SketchFab. The photos are animated, which gives viewers the ability to move the covers and explore the inside of the artifacts. 3D modeling technologies helped create accurate three-dimensional copies of monumental ancient art objects, ensuring the availability of carefully guarded cultural heritage to a wide range of viewers.
The Harvard Museum plans to create an interactive exhibit combining a wall-mounted monitor showing a gallery of 3D images and a website with translations of hieroglyphs, inscriptions, and explanations of scenes drawn on sarcophagi. In addition, exciting applications with augmented reality will be developed.
Publication of three-dimensional mock-ups in the general access is designed to fill the information vacuum about the monuments of ancient civilizations, which are now presented only in the form of museum exhibits or photos.
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