3D Scanning Technology from Artec 3D Provides a Closer Look at Bones from Ancient China

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[Image: BBC]

One of the greatest aspects of the latest technologies is the ability to use it to delve more deeply into the past. Turning back the pages of history books, 3D scanning technology in particular has proven a valuable resource to historians, archaeologists, and other researchers for gaining insights and understanding into the annals of human history. One of the most intriguing sites in archaeology, China’s famed Terracotta Army were assembled starting around 246 BCE — and after interment not seen again by human eyes until their chance discovery in 1974. The clay warriors stand guard in the mausoleum complex of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who himself occupied the well-guarded and hidden tomb in 210 or 209 BCE.  Thousands of clay figures, from generals to acrobats, occupy the pits near the mausoleum itself. Qin Shi Huang was certainly buried with abundance — the entire complex is the largest burial site in the world, spanning more than 100 square kilometers, with more than 600 pits and structures —  and explorations of the entire tomb are of course ongoing, with high-tech examination becoming ever more possible to more deeply understand all that went into the elaborate final resting place of the First Emperor.

While 3D technologies have already been put to use in projects inspired by the army, now 3D scanning technology from the very busy Artec 3D is being put to use in furthering goals of historical preservation at this site, focused not on the statues of warriors but on human remains found in burial pits in the area. Researchers from Northwest University, in Xi’an, China, have been using Artec’s 3D scanners as well as Artec Studio software to create digital copies of the skulls and other bones found in the pits, which had belonged in life to young women. The remains are thought to have belonged to the emperor’s concubines, most likely those who had not birthed imperial sons. Burial pits contain these remains, from the young women thought to have been burned and buried to serve the emperor in the afterlife, as well as, in other pits, the remains of every worker involved in the elaborate construction, to keep them silent.


[Image: BBC]

Technology from Artec proved to be well-suited for the task, as it has been utilized in similar projects before, 3D scanning historical artifacts as well as 3D scanned and 3D printable anatomical models, both through ongoing collaboration with Threeding, among many (many) other projects to preserve history. This particular preservation attempt relied on the handheld Artec Spider 3D scanner, which utilizes structured light technology to offer high resolution to capture details. The Spider, notes Artec, “has a 3D resolution of up to 0.1 mm with 0.05 mm accuracy” through use of color data capture and hybrid geometry with no need for target stickers on delicate artifacts.

“Artec Spider captured the texture of the bones with incredible detail that could be seen both during the actual scanning process and in the final 3D model,” said Li Kang, Researcher for Northwest University’s Department of Geology. “In addition to using Artec’s technology for heritage preservation, the University also collaborates with police and uses Artec scanners for facial reconstruction.”


[Image: Northwest University]

Northwest University has been working to create a medical database of Chinese people’s heads, going from 2,000 CT images to 2,000 3D mesh models of faces and skulls. The university seeks to use this collection of digital images for facial reconstruction efforts — useful not just for recreating the visages of historical remains (such as the skulls found in these burial mounds) but also for unkown crime victims.

“The practice of 3D scanning has quickly become a vital tool for historical preservation both on site and in the lab. The ability to easily create a detailed 3D model is invaluable, when dealing with artifacts and remains that are over 2,000 years old and will inevitably degrade over time. The adoption of 3D scanning has also allowed archeology, paleontology and anthropology to become globally collaborative practices,” said Artyom Yukhin, President and CEO of Artec 3D.


[Image: BBC]

A recent documentary from the BBC, “The Greatest Tomb on Earth: Secrets of Ancient China,” includes a look at this use of scanning for preservation, as well as other recent discoveries centering around this massive tomb complex (notably, Greek artists may have been involved in the design of the Terracotta Army). As advances in technology allow for a deeper understanding of long-held mysteries, we’re sure to see more and more of these stories arising as digital models serve to provide study into sites, artifacts and remains without damaging or destroying the delicate, millennia-old originals.

Check out the full BBC documentary for more insights into this incredible, mysterious tomb (3D scanning can be seen in various uses throughout the documentary):


[Source: Artec 3D]

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