ADS 3D Viewer

A 3D Real-Time System for the Management and Analysis of Archaeological Data


ADS 3D Viewer Logo

The ADS 3D Viewer was a two year project funded under the Marie Curie Actions Seventh Framework Programme, and benefited from the collaboration with the Visual Computing Lab (ISTI-CNR) in the framework of the ARIADNE European project. The project had the overall aim of developing a 3D web-based working environment for the management and analysis of archaeological data, based within the Archaeology Data Service.

ADS 3D Viewer was designed to investigate how the adoption of WebGL (Web Graphics Library) by current web browsers can support the development of an open access infrastructure for the management and analysis of archaeological data. The aim of the interactive 3D platform (3D viewer) was not just the visualization of 3D archaeological data, but also the creation of an effective tool for the analysis and interpretation of the archaeological record. Thanks to ADS 3D Viewer multiple experts can share and analyse 3D replicas of the archaeological excavation record, which can now be revisited and subjected to new analytical techniques over the long term.

In the past twenty years the use of new technologies for the 3D documentation and reconstruction of cultural heritage has changed how we approach archaeological research. The growth of information technology in 3D documentation tools, including electronic surveying instruments, laser scanners, photogrammetric cameras, and even CAD modellers, has brought an exponential increase in the use of digital data. The use of real-time survey software and hardware such as the total station, global positioning systems (GPS), photogrammetry and laser scanners has had a remarkable impact on archaeological recording as well as important implications for archaeological survey. The use of these techniques, by improving the accuracy and precision of the documentation process, is considerably changing the nature and implications of the word digital in archaeology. Presently, the main challenge for archaeologists and information and communication technology specialists consists in the preservation and dissemination of 3D data in archaeology. Up to now, a number of 3D digital data archives have been developed but most focus on the preservation of the information over time without thinking about the accessibility of these data on the part of the scientific community.

The ADS 3D Viewer project filled this gap by developing an interactive visualization system that is integrated with the database and provides access to data archived in a simple way for all kinds of users, including those who are unfamiliar with these technologies. Using the ADS 3D viewer researchers can now analyse and interpret the archaeological record not just from text information and 2D representations of the archaeological excavation, but by interacting in real-time with high resolution 3D realistic and metric reproductions of the archaeological units. The possibility to share complex 3D models of archaeological sites and monuments, and the interpretations made by archaeologists during the excavation process on the web, will promote discussion between scholars and represents a revolutionary change in the discipline.

Two versions of the viewer have been developed to answer the needs of different users:

1. Object Level 3D Viewer

The Object Level 3D Viewer, extending the web-based browsing functionality of the ADS project archives, will allow the dynamic visualization of single 3D models directly in the project webpage.

2. Stratigraphy 3D Viewer

The Stratigraphy 3D Viewer will consent the visualization and analysis of a very specific kind of "aggregated" data such as the different layers of the archaeological stratigraphy.


Dr Fabrizio Galeazzi
Department of Archaeology
University of York
King's Manor

Project partners

Archaeology Data Service, University of York
Visual Computing Lab, ISTI-CNR