Archaeologists Receive Major Research Instrumentation Grant from National Science Foundation

Posted on 8/7/2012 8:04:45 PM

Principal Investigator Beverly Chiarulli (Anthropology) and Coprincipal Investigators Scott Moore (History), Ben Ford (Anthropology), Sarah Neusius (Anthropology), and Phillip Neusius (Anthropology) have been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation for the “Acquisition of Instruments for 3D Digital Mapping of Historic Structures and Archaeological Sites.”

The grant will purchase a 3D Scanner system for digital documentation of the built environment and a multiple array ground penetrating radar for below-ground surveys of archaeological features.

Individually, these instruments create high-quality, high-resolution images of structures and landscapes as well as below-ground archaeological features. Used together, they can create a digital library of above-ground structures to provide a comparative database for the identification of below-ground archaeological features. Because of this joint usage, they form an integrated system. The instruments will be employed by IUP faculty and students and our collaborators and their students from Howard University, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and the University of North Dakota.

Among the projects that will use the instruments are:

  1. Chiarulli’s project on historic cemeteries in western Pennsylvania will use 3D mapping of surface topography and standing gravestones in combination with the Multiple Array GPR to record forgotten grave sites.
  2. Ford’s investigation of shipwrecks in frozen lakes will use 3D imaging of surviving ships similar to wrecked vessels combined with winter surveys of Lake Ontario using the multiple antenna GPR to record otherwise potentially inaccessible shipwrecks for identification and protection.
  3. Moore’s survey of painted churches in the Troodos Mountains, Cyprus, will aid in the preservation of the interior and exterior decoration of these churches by documenting the manner of construction of these buildings for an increased understanding of Byzantine Christianity and the development of rural religious practices.
  4. Chiarulli and Sarah Neusius’ investigation of Late Prehistoric Villages in western Pennsylvania will use the multiple array GPR for rapid below-ground survey of large villages to discover faint prehistoric features and develop maps of village layouts without excavation.
  5. Moore and his collaborators will use 3D scanning to image above-ground Roman ruins to understand site formation in Cyprus combined with a multiple array GPR survey of the entire coastal settlement for the definition of the city’s physical layout and provide the data to understand the development of this midsized Roman settlement and its role in local and regional trade.
  6. Phillip Neusius and Ben Ford’s surveys of Smicksburg, a 19th-century commercial and industrial center in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, will use 3D scanning to create a digital library of houses from this period and the multiple array GPR to produce detailed comparative subsurface information and record otherwise inaccessible heritage resources.

While the instruments provide rapid data collection, they also provide the capability to survey large landforms so investigations can move beyond the survey and analysis of single historic buildings or archaeological sites and conduct surveys of communities and landscapes. The impact of these instruments extends beyond their direct benefits to the initial projects. They will expand the investigator’s ability to train IUP graduate and undergraduate students in critical and rapidly developing technologies, as well as give students from three other universities opportunities to use the instruments. No less significant, the instrumentation would also ensure that the faculty participants themselves remain current in the use of advanced technology and will be able to incorporate it into their classes and other research projects.

This is the second MRI grant awarded since 2007 to Chiarulli, Moore, Phillip Neusius, and Sarah Neusius, and other investigators from the IUP Anthropology, Geography, and Geoscience departments. The first award for $297,000 was for the “Acquisition of Mobile Spatial Data Acquisition and Processing Technologies (MSDAPT) to Support Cross-Disciplinary Research and Undergraduate and Graduate Research Training.” It provided instruments to support the collection and processing of highly precise spatial and geophysical data in demanding local and international field settings for research and student training. These instruments included geophysical instruments such as ground penetrating radar, magnetometers, magnetic susceptibility, and electrical resistivity.

Department of Anthropology