Without doubt, ancient shipwrecks rank amongst the most revealing and spectacular sources of knowledge in archaeology. However, they are also among the most difficult and expensive sites to manage and explore. On land and in the air, digital technology has made great strides ahead in developing ubiquitous, cheap and rapid 3D data scanning with devices such as terrestrial laser scanners, structured light scanners, airborn LiDAR systems revolutionising archaeological field work and landscape analysis. However, the adverse environmental conditions continue to restrict use of such equipment underwater.
Due to the fact that water is a strong barrier to electromagnetic waves, many active scanning technologies are either impossible to use or prohibitevely expensive in their adjustment to submarine settings. With our application, we are looking for funds to design, implement and test passive 3D modelling methods which are based on underwater photography and state-of-the art computer vision software.
The toolchain we want to use for 3D data capturing is the structure from motion (SFM) technique, a refined method for extracting 3D models from overlapping photographs or from video streams. While the SFM has already entered the world of terrestrial archaeology, few attempts have been made so far to use it in the field of underwater excavation. As a result, the applicants listed above want to test this method and assess the accuracy of the resulting data on a shipwreck off the coast of Croatia within their project. The quality of the imagery obtainable under clear water conditions shows that it should be possible to use the SFM in underwater assessments.
Therefore, we want to test the SFM-based 3D modelling toolchains and assess the accuracy of the resulting reconstructions within the context of the work carried out on a shipwreck off the Croatian coast. As mentioned above, this is particularly true for complex three-dimensional objects, such as the shipwreck proposed as a case study in this application.
Moreover, this method will also be helpful thanks to its easy handling and its rapid execution. The aforementioned advantage is an important factor when working within the limited time available when working at such depths. In many ways, all future research within this medium and field would benefit from the knowledge potentially gained thanks to this project.