Open Conference Systems, Kainua 2017

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Using Laser Scanner Technology to Analyse Mud-brick Architecture in the Ancient Near East. The Palatial Complex of Arslantepe (Malatya, Turkey)
Corrado Alvaro, Giovanna Liberotti

Last modified: 2017-03-21


In 2014, the Sapienza University of Rome financed a project on 3D laser scanning, which involved the Departments of Ancient World Studies and Art History in cooperation with Leica Geosystems. Thirteen young researchers from different disciplines faced methodological and theoretical problems concerning the three-dimensional representation of archaeological monuments and artefacts using a Leica Geosystems ScanStation P20, a Hexagon Romer Absolute Arm and their related software.

One of the most significant issues addressed in this project was the 3D laser scanner survey carried out at Arslantepe, a mounded archaeological site located in the Malatya plain (Eastern Anatolia). Starting from 1961, the Italian Archaeological Expedition in Eastern Anatolia, currently directed by Prof. Marcella Frangipane, has largely brought to light its long history spanning the 6th millennium BCE to the Seljuk period. The most outstanding evidence unearthed so far is the Palatial Complex, a group of monumental buildings erected during the final centuries of the 4th Millennium BCE, when the economic and political centralization reached its climax. The monumental buildings, excavated over about 2000 m2, were remarkably well preserved, with 2.5 m high mud-brick walls decorated with original white plaster and red and black paintings. They stand on terraces along the southwestern slope of the mound and are connected by corridors and courtyards. In 2011, the whole area became an open-air Museum, where the structures are protected from climatic stress and visitors can have a glimpse of the monumental complex as it was.

This paper presents the results of the 3D laser scanning survey of the Palatial Complex, performed during the 2015 and 2016 excavation campaigns. The aim is to aid the interpretation of the archaeological features and their mutual relationship through extremely accurate measurements, as well as to provide the researchers with structural and condition monitoring of the surfaces over the time. Given the relevant size of the studied area and the ever-changing plastic shape that mud-brick buildings take on over the time, the Palatial Complex turned out to be an interesting challenge for testing the laser scanner technology, since it is not easy to connect to any regular design.