[CESCG logo] 3D editor for archaeology

Tomas Suchanek

Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Technical University of Brno
Brno, Czech republic
[CESCG logo]


This contribution explains the project of 3D editor for archaeology. The work included selection of suitable implementation platform, design of specialized functions for archaeology, and implementation of these functions in MicroStation environment.

Keywords: 3D editor, archaeology, MicroStation, MDL.

1. Introduction

This work initially started after discussions with archaeologists from Philosophical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno. They had an idea to create some tool for reconstruction of original buildings form founded reminders.

The goal of archaeological research is understanding to past forms of people life their habits tools and houses. Traditionally, maps of archaeological fields are made using the reminders of foundations. They as precisely ad possible document artefacts found on the fields. Having the maps, archaeologists try to restore historical villages using their imagination. They usually work with pencil and piece of paper or paper models (see Figure 1). Such work typically takes very long time.

Figure 1: Global view of one locality

Archaeologists at Philosophical Faculty in Brno use computers for creating the maps. By having the maps on the computer, a good chance exists to reconstruct some form of 3D model of the sites and eventually to visualise it. Unfortunately, the process of creation of the 3D model form the map, cannot be fully automatic due to shortage of the height information; however, computer can be used to make the user-assisted process of creation of 3D model easy by automation of typical operations. Such models could be visualised delivering the results and possibilities that were previously totally unimaginable – starting from ”common” realistic display and enabling functions such as computing light parameters form information about placement on the Earth and time. Such functions can be very important in studies of the functionality of the buildings, e.g. for study of various religious ceremonials.

Another product of this work is a tool that makes easy creation of 3D model for archaeologists. The above described editor can also be used for reconstruction of complete villages (groups of buildings). The editor was named ArcheoBuilder.

2. Selection of implementation platform

During creation of the editor was needed to select an appropriate platform for implementation. Two systems were considered. AutoCAD from Autodesk and MicroStation from Bentley Systems and Intergraph.

AutoCAD is multifunctional CAD system expanded typically in general engineering. AutoCAD is implemented only on PC architecture (Windows NT, MS-Windows, MS-DOS). It provides all typical operations for 2D design. For 3D design, it provides possibility for modelling surfaces and solid bodies (see Figure 2) by using predefined objects or by rotation and projection of 2D objects. AutoCAD includes an embedded programming tool called AutoLisp. It is an analogy to traditional functional language Lisp. It is, however, not very comfortable for application development.

Figure 2: User interface of AutoCAD R14

MicroStation is multifunctional CAD system, too. But it is expanded typically in building industrial blocks, architectural structures and surveys. It is implemented on several computer platforms (Unix, Windows, DOS). For 2D design, it provides all common operations including modeling B-spline curves. MicroStation allows connection drawings to some large database systems. For 3D design MicroStation provides only modeling of surfaces (see bottom left part of Figure 3). Solid objects are represented by their surface. This fact can cause problems in modeling of buildings where it is needed to know solid parameters of modeled bodies for simulation mechanical properties. But commercial supplements exist than professionally solve this problem (e.g. MicroStation Modeler). For developing applications is programming language MDL embedded into MicroStation. MicroStation Development Language (MDL) a complete development environment is available that lets applications take full advantage of the power of the MicroStation CAD engine.

Figure 3: User interface of MicroStation 4.0

Finally, MicroStation was chosen as the implementation platform for the following reasons:

3. MicroStation Development Language - MDL

MicroStation Development Language (MDL) is a complete development environment that lets applications take full advantage of the power of the MicroStation CAD engine. MDL can be used to develop simple utilities, customized commands, or sophisticated commercial applications for vertical markets. With MDL, you can:

3.1 Components of MDL

MDL supplies the following:


4. Editor functions

The most needed functions for archaeological reconstructions that were selected for implementation are the following:


Figure 4: Palisade

Figure 5: Fence

Figure 6: Loghouse

Figure 7: Loghouse

Figure 8: Loghouse

Figure 9: Loghouse

Figure 10: Loghouse

Figure 11: Loghouse

Figure 12: Hey storage

Figure 13: Grate

Figure 14: Stone oven

Figure 15: Loam oven

These functions were designed in co-operation with archaeologists at Philosophical faculty of Masaryk university in Brno. They believe that they can process most of the data from their excavations using the above functions. Of course, other changes and general editing of the drawings will be possible through common functions of MicroStation.

4.1 System functions

Other important features of ArcheoBuilder

Figure 16: The ArcheoBuilder application

4.2 Example of usage

Figure 17: Map of decision

Figure 18: Reconstructed building

Figure 19: Rendered view

5. Conclusions

The ArcheoBuilder editor was created according to the wishes of archaeologists. Hopefully, it will be helpful for archaeologists in their work on reconstruction of buildings that existed on the Earth many centuries ago.


6. References

[1] MicroStation PC - MDL Manual, Intergraph Corporation, Huntsville , 1991.