Tracing edges: A consideration of the applications of 3D modelling for metalwork wear analysis on Bronze Age bladed artefacts

Publication date: December 2016Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 76
Author(s): Barry Molloy, Mariusz Wiśniewski, Frank Lynam, Brendan O’Neill, Aidan O’Sullivan, Alan Peatfield
In many regions of Europe, bronze metalwork survives in excellent states of preservation that enable us to examine traces of use on objects that are indicative of the ways in which they were used. This is a relatively young field of archaeometric research and the methodologies employed are as yet to be consolidated. A systematic relationship typically exists between experimental archaeology and the analyses of ancient objects to understand the character and causation of traces of use on objects. Mediation between these approaches has typically been undertaken using physical casts of damage on ancient objects or primary documentation and illustration by hand. We propose in this paper that advances in digital 3D modelling provide a new and dynamic interlocutor between artefact analyses and experimental archaeology. To this end, we evaluate the pros and cons of two of the affordable and commonly used modes of 3D data capture – laser scanning and structure from motion/photogrammetry – for studying the wear on bladed metal objects. We conclude that 3D modelling has considerable potential for enhancing metalwork wear analysis and object biography research. This is due to the dynamics of storing and displaying wear data for particular objects and by linking the study of traces of use on ancient objects more generally with those developed through experimental research.