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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday January 31, 2024

Updated on Wednesday January 31, 2024

portrait of Henk Alkemade

Henk Alkemade

Enterprise archtitect/ (Historic) Landscapes specialist , Independent

How the 5DCulture project supports the reuse of archaeological content in 3D

3D technologies offer opportunities to broaden access to culture, preserve our shared cultural heritage and spur creativity and innovation. In support of the Twin It! 3D for Europe’s culture campaign, and as part of an ongoing series from the EuropeanaTech community, we hear about some exciting first results from the 5DCulture project.

Two people looking towards a spoon being digitised in 3D
Creating 3D models of objects. Hands-on workshop, "Creating and sharing 3D in the common European data space for cultural heritage at the EuropeanaTech 2023 conference
Sebastiaan ter Burg
Europeana Foundation
The Netherlands

An exciting time for 3D and cultural heritage

Never before have there been so many - and good - tools available to create high quality 3D models of archaeological artefacts, sites and cultural heritage objects.

We now have the technology to accurately document archaeological heritage in an efficient way. Photogrammetry and laser scanning are widely used to capture the geometry, texture and colour of artefacts and sites. With specialised software, we can convert the raw data into high polygon (detailed), geometrically accurate 3D models. Software is also available to apply realistic or even better than realistic textures to 3D models, in order to enhance visual quality.

Finally, derivatives of the ‘mother’ (original) 3D models can be created, fit for different uses and audiences. In this way, one high quality 3D model can give rise to several 3D models, which can be used for conservation, research, education and tourism.

The 5DCulture project

It is reuse scenarios like these that are being explored as part of the 5DCulture project, a data space supporting project funded by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency of the European Commission. In particular focus are two reuse scenarios for 3D archaeological content, and the 5DCulture project also aims to:

  • Deliver high quality 3D content related to fashion, archaeology and architecture to the common European data space for cultural heritage;

  • Develop and evaluate reuse scenarios of this content in domains, such as education, tourism and the wider cultural and creative sectors;

  • Deploy innovative digital technologies and tools for 3D; and,

  • Work on capacity building for the cultural heritage sector for a wider reuse of 3D cultural assets.

The project started on 1 January 2023 and will run for two years. IN2 is the lead partner, with a total of twelve partners involved.

Reuse of archaeological content

Led by CARARE, project partners The Discovery Programme and the University Research Institute for Iberian Archaeology, University of Jaén are delivering 3D content and reuse scenarios for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne and Iberian culture. Brú na Bóinne is a significant archaeological and historical site in Ireland, renowned for its Neolithic burial mounds which date back over 5,000 years. Iberian culture, meanwhile, developed and flourished in eastern and southern Spain, between 6th-1st centuries BC. The Iberians lived in villages and oppida (fortified settlements) and their communities were based on tribal organisations.

Project partners are exploring how 3D content can enhance the visitor experiences of this site and culture, evaluating the creation of different 3D surrogates from original datasets and investigating the value these have for different sectors. They are also working to reconnect and relate these archaeological sites with artefacts using 3D and other digital media.

By using 3D technology in archaeological heritage, the project aims to digitally reconstruct archaeological sites, artefacts and structures, offering researchers and archaeologists a virtual platform for analysis, interpretation, and preservation. This approach opens up new avenues for understanding and studying our collective past while ensuring the long-term conservation of valuable archaeological treasures.

The first enhanced or new 3D models of Brú na Bóinne and Iberian archaeology have now been created and reused. In addition, approximately 130 existing 3D models available through will be enhanced and 30 new ones added. The Discovery Programme is focusing on quality improvements of 3D models and especially the innovative adding of parametric synthetic textures to improve the (re)usability of the 3D content of the site and artefacts of Brú na Bóinne.

An example of 3D digital documentation of cultural heritage objects which have developed an artists response - in this instance, to the Glauberg warrior
Discovery Programme, Roisin Fiztpatrick, Glauberg Museum
Frankfurt, Germany

Using the models in education

The selected 3D models of archaeological objects will be used for educational purposes at various levels (primary, secondary, university) and to be more inclusive of people with visual impairments through 3D printing. The production of 3D multimedia content will allow these groups to have an immersive experience of interaction based on the use of ICT technologies. The 3D content has already been reused for educational purposes at a ‘Culture Night’ event and for creating art. 33 new models have been created so far.

The University Research Institute of Iberian Archaeology has also focused on creating inclusive heritage which can be explored by school groups and those with special needs. They worked to improve the texture and metadata of 65 3D models of artefacts from Iberian culture. 3D models were then selected, scaled and printed in different materials, to be used in two workshops for European Researchers Night at the Iberian Museum.

Two images showing children taking part in workshops.
Workshops for children at the Iberian Museum, Jaén: ''The Iberians in 3D'' and ''Iberian ex-votos: explore the sacred world of Iltir and Neitin''
Left, Mario Gutiérrez, right, Carmen Rueda
University Research Centre for Iberían Archaeology
Two images showing children taking part in workshops.

Next steps

In the coming months, the methodology for, and reporting and evaluation of, these first reuse cases of 3D archaeological content will be finalised. In the second half of 2024, the 3D modelling and reuse demonstrators will be completed and then evaluated.

Next year, 5DCulture will also establish a Community of Practice to deploy digital technologies and tools for 3D and work on capacity building to equip cultural heritage institutions with the necessary knowledge and skills for a wider reuse of their 3D cultural assets. The Community will be open to all, so make sure that you keep following the project to hear more.

We are also delighted that 5DCulture has been granted the Twin it! Label, recognising our support for 3D for Europe’s culture, and for the campaign which invites the Ministries of Culture of the European Union Member States to submit one 3D digitised heritage asset to the common European data space for cultural heritage, deployed by Europeana.

Find out more

Recordings of several events organised by the project about creating, managing, publishing on and reusing 3D models of cultural heritage and specifically archaeological content are available on CARARE’s Vimeo Channel. More events on this topic will follow! Check the 5DCulture and CARARE websites for more information, as well as blogs, videos and slide decks from past events.