Terrestrial 3D Laser Scanners for Archaeology

Terrestrial laser scanning has been successfully applied to document historic buildings or archaeological features as walls, columns, monumental statues all over the world. Our own projects scanning the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, the Celsus Library at Ephesos or the monumental graves of the Tang emperors, just to mention a few, proofed this technique to be able to collect reliable, high resolution data of such monuments in a short time. More specific applications include the documentation of caves or mines as the oldest prehistoric salt mine at Hallstatt, megaliths, incised rock formations, Early Christian chapels and tombs cut into the bedrock or any buried features still visible in the topography as ramparts, burial mounds or former field systems. The acquired data might be used for archaeological documentation purposes only. However, further processing provides the possibility for virtual reality modeling, restoration planning or virtual reconstructions and provides fascinating products to the large public.

In archaeology not only the monument itself is of interest but the surrounding topography should be captured as well. Therefore such specific archaeological applications require wide range and long distance scanners which are compact and robust. We found the RIEGL LMS Z420i and Z390 perfect multi-purpose scanner for the most archaeological projects (www.riegl.com), reliable even in harsh archaeological field situations, including high temperature changes, dust, mud, rain or storm. Carrying the Z420i up the great pyramid of Khufu we liked to have a more light-weighted scanner instead. During the 10 hours of data collection on the top we immediately changed our mind and got convinced of our heavy machine which perfectly worked even in a sand storm. Nevertheless the monitoring of an archaeological excavation process by the means of a 3D laser scanner is still underestimated by professional archaeologists and providers of scanners or scanning services.