The Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology team are using a 3D modelling method that provides a rapid insight into the physical remains at any site under investigation.
The 3D model shown above was created by the ORCA team for the baseline assessment of coastal archaeology threatened for Historic Environment Scotland. Coastal erosion is one of the main threats to shoreline archaeology in the islands of Orkney.
The site at Munkerhoose is within a section of eroding coastline stretching over 80m in length. The exposed section is over nine meters wide and stepped in a series of narrow uneven terraces. This aspect is due in part to the excavation and back fill of the northern and central portion of the site in 1990. The most significant threat to the site is from high energy storms from the open ocean to the north and northwest.
The section is annotated and by clicking on each number on the 3D model above, the details of the coast at that point can be examined. You can also rotate the coastline model or zoom in using your mouse. Taking each point.....
Point 1 Dense Midden Deposits. The area with few stones is midden material - mainly domestic rubbish from the nearby structures. An excavation in 1990 identified several features within this area.
Point 2 The piled stones here are parts of an ancient structure. They have been protected from erosion by dumped material from the 1990 excavation.
Point 3 shows in detail the remains of a large Iron Age roundhouse excavated in 1990.
Wave action has had the most significant impact in the features within the lower section of the site, such as the point identified here, where soft deposits from below wall sections have been undermined and smaller pinning stones and wall cores washed out, leading to collapse or destabilisation.
Point 4 shows a roundhouse passageway. Erosion has exposed a structure not visible in 1990. This passageway could be internal, as part of this roundhouse structure, or external, between it and a separate structure to the south of the roundhouse.
Point 5 shows further structural remains which is another newly exposed structure, possibly another roundhouse; the sagging horizontal slabs are the floor. This area has suffered significantly from wave action.
The detail captured by the ORCA team in these 3D models provides a very cost effective method of providing baseline data which in turn enables everyone involved in the project to analyse, measure and compare erosion effects at different sites very quickly.
This pioneering approach to using 3D modelling has been used to some effect at the world renowned Ness of Brodgar excavation where multiple 3D models tracked the progress of the disassembly of the north wall of Structure One and enabled archaeologists working at the site to plan the excavation more rapidly than if field sketches were used.
In short the 3D team can collect the data and within days create a detailed model....for anyone to view anywhere on the planet - as long as they have an internet connection of course!
The creation of the 3D models above were in connection with the Community Archaeology Baseline Assessment Project completed for Historic Environment Scotland in March 2018. See ourprevious blog post for details of the overall project.
This blog has been created by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology in beautiful Orkney. We aim to add features and news about our work on the islands and further afield on a regular basis.