Anthropology Professor Receives Defense Department Grant for Virtual Artifact Curation

The Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program has awarded Virginia Commonwealth University Anthropology professor Bernard K. Means, Ph.D., and alumnus John Haynes (’79 B.S. Anthropology) a $49,100 grant to test artifact-scanning technology.

The yearlong project, "Virtual Artifact Curation: Three-Dimensional Digital Data Collection for Artifact Analysis and Interpretation," involves the three-dimensional scanning of artifacts in order to test and demonstrate the capabilities of the technology used. The project team will use artifact collections from Defense Department installations in Virginia and Maryland.

"The goal of the project is to digitally record significant attributes from archaeological artifacts, including American Indian spear points and arrowheads, in three dimensions," Means said. "This will allow accurate measurement of artifact dimensions and also accurate recording of qualitative attributes — especially shape. … The increased accuracy of the digital measurements will enable us to develop stronger statistical comparisons to similar objects from multiple museum facilities."

Means will work with VCU students and volunteers from the archaeological community to develop and test training and educational procedures for the project. Students will help digitally scan artifacts, develop protocols and help develop public outreach materials. Select students will present findings from the project at professional archaeological conferences. The digital data will be readily accessible online to other researchers.

The Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program fosters innovative approaches to the study, preservation, and stewardship of cultural remains – including archaeological objects – recovered on department facilities across the globe.