Catalogging the Catacombs

A lengthy item from the BBC is sure to generate a lot of interest; here’s a bit in medias res:

The leader of the project, Dr Norbert Zimmerman of the Vienna Academy of Sciences, was behind the idea to use laser scanners to record every part of the Catacombs.

His scanner, which looks like a cylinder on a tripod, stands a metre or so high and is a piece of kit you usually find in the construction industry.

Gone are the days when archaeologists just used shovels, brushes and sieves to unearth the past.

The scanner has been placed in hundreds of different locations in the Catacombs.

It turns slowly, sending out millions of light pulses that bounce off every surface they come into contact with. The light pulses rebound back into the scanner and are recorded on a computer as a series of white dots, known as a “point cloud”.

Gradually, every wall, ceiling, and floor is bombarded with the dots, enabling the computer to build up a picture of each room.

Eventually, the computer completes a 360-degree, three-dimensional, moving image of that room, with every surface looking like it is made up of small white dots.

At the same time a camera on the scanner takes a picture of each surface. That information is also fed into the computer enabling colour to be added to “fill in” the dots.

‘Real data’

When the process is finished, it looks like an actual film of the particular room in question.

In all, four billion dots were recorded, enabling practically the whole catacomb to be documented in this way. Only a handful of small spaces were left out because it simply was not possible to get the scanner in.

… there are all sorts of photos at the site; in theory, I’ve embedded a relevant bbc video below:

more about “BBC NEWS | Europe | Shedding light on…“, posted with vodpod

An incredibly interesting application of technology to the stuff within our purview …

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