From Architecture to Artifacts: Scanning Paleoindian Points at RMSC (Fall 2017)

In an effort to expand the scale and scope of the Architectural Biometrics platform, during the Fall of 2017 graduate assistants Alicia Chester and Julia Tulke began scanning several Paleoindian points (commonly known as “arrowheads”) held in the collections of our external partner, the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC). The goal of this new project phase is to apply the technology and computational analysis developed in the study of the Ottoman and Canadian railways to a type of object that is different in almost every sense: quantity (numbering in the thousands rather than dozens), age (ancient rather than modern), size (small rather than large) and institutional context (a museum collection requiring access rather than a public work not requiring access). Setting into motion a collaboration with an institution outside of the academy, our work with RMSC established a blueprint for the wider institutional dissemination of our platform. Upon completion of the data gathering process at the RMSC collections—a total of 34 artifacts—the project will continue at The New York State Museum in Albany, thus accessing some of the most extensive and regionally cohesive sets of Paleoindian points within the United States.

Scanning setup at RMSC

The scans at RMSC were conducted using an Artec Space Spider 3D Scanner mounted on a tabletop tripod with the Paleoindian points displayed on a turning base. The form and materiality of the artifacts proved a challenge to the equipment. The scanner would often lose spatial tracking while attempting to capture the thin edges of the Paleoindian points. Furthermore, the rough textures of the artifacts’ surfaces were not always accurately registered by the scanner, leaving small holes in the data and meshes. We addressed these issues by continually adjusting our scanning setup, improvising new display bases to securely hold the Paleoindian points at various angles, creating marks on and around these bases to allow the scanner to maintain tracking, adjusting the lighting angles and distance, and collecting multiple scans for each object (in most cases a total of four). These methods of creative problem-solving provided us with an appropriate amount of data points to produce accurate data meshes during processing.

Follow this link to access an interactive preview of a Paleoindian point scanned at RMSC, created by project programmer Josh Romphf.

Preview of a rendered 3D of a Paleoindian point scanned at RMSC
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