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Laser scanning documents ancient Scottish settlements

A team of Scottish archaeological surveyors have used laser scanning technology to virtually uncover early settlements on Orkney that date back more than 5,000. 

The Maeshowe chamber tomb at Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland [Credit: © Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation]
The surveyors, from the Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio and the government agency Historic Scotland, used high tech equipment – including scanners from Leica Geosystems – to document historic chambers. 

One of the targeted structures was Maeshowe, a 3.8-metre-tall stone chamber buried under a mound of earth and only accessible through an 11-metre-long narrow passage. The Neolithic monument has been comprehensively scanned as part of the Scottish Ten project, in which the group of surveyors are surveying ten World Heritage Sites across the globe. 

The scan of Maeshowe was able to measure the ancient structure to accuracy of within six millimetres. They hope that the scans will help with the conservation of the site and serve to monitor future wear and tear. 

The scanning of Maeshowe has also documented the largest known collection of runes outside of Scandinavia, which were deposited in the tomb around one thousand years ago when Orkney was under the rule of the Norwegians. 

Other World Heritage Sites that have already been scanned as part of the project include Mount Rushmore in the US and the island of St Kilda, off the north west coast of Scotland. 

Author: Geoff Norris | Source: Optical [May 11, 2012]

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