Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Micheal Murray (2016)

Keywords: Underwater, Archaeology, Lasers, Resolution, Accuracy, Point Cloud, 3D Models


The advent of 3D capture technologies and the datasets they produce has profoundly affected archaeological research and preservation efforts for decades. In the 21st century, Moore’s Law has led to rapid innovations that have dramatically reduced the size, cost, and therefore, availability of various recording instruments in maritime archaeology. Underwater laser scanning has been directly affected by this trend and has recently emerged as a promising 3D recording technology with the potential to add a new layer of interpretative value to a site. Its successful deployment in the oil, gas, and underwater inspection industries have produced an unprecedented millimetric scale of resolution and accuracy concerning the true size, shape and constitution of a wide range of submerged material assets. However, in maritime archaeological terms, how can underwater archaeology most benefit from laser scanned data outputs and at what cost? For example, does achieving millimetric levels of accuracy and resolution outweigh the benefits of applying other popular recording methodologies such as photogrammetry and sonar and in what environments?  Does laser scanning have any observable interpretive value over the others when producing a 3D digital model? How are they complimentary to each other? The results of two diver deployed cases studies comparing the ULS-500 to photogrammetry, sonar and experimental stereogrammetry, in the first phase, and the ULS-200 to multibeam sonar in the second, will aim to provide answers to these, indications as to its wider efficacy of use in underwater archaeology, and provide the basis for future case study applications.