3D GIS for building archeology – Combining old and new data in a three-dimensional information system in the case study of Lund Cathedral

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Martina Polig


Traditionally, building archeology is conducted by creating and interpreting 2D documentation, even though the spatial properties of a building are not fully expressed in 2D. The reason for neglecting the third dimension has been mostly due to technical limitations in data acquisition and creation, as well as visualization. The fast progress in 3D technology puts an end to those limitations even though its full potential is still yet to be explored.

This study shows how a 3D GIS can be applied from the outset of a building archaeological study to create a three-dimensional information system connected to a geometrically accurate 3D model of a structure.

The case study investigates Lund Cathedral (Sweden) and is linked to a larger research project launched in occasion of the cathedral’s 900th anniversary in 2023 (“Lund Cathedral 2023”). Within the framework of this project, the cathedral was acquired digitally through laser scanning and photogrammetry. The building is characterized by a complex building history with a multitude of changes and renovations. Gaining an understanding of all interventions, as well as managing the different types of datasets created during two centuries of study is a challenge.

In order to overcome these difficulties, various datasets (from excavations, wall analyses, georadar, etc.) and their relevant metadata were imported into the ArcGIS software and linked to a geometrically accurate 3D model of the church, placing all pieces of information in their correct spatial position. Thus, data that was previously impossible to view simultaneously and in the same space can be displayed together, creating a unique holistic oversight of the available material. Through the flexibility and versatility of the system, information can be displayed and queried at will, as well as updated continuously, greatly facilitating interpretation and making it an important resource throughout the entire building archaeological study


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Polig, M. (2017). 3D GIS for building archeology – Combining old and new data in a three-dimensional information system in the case study of Lund Cathedral. Studies in Digital Heritage, 1(2), 225–238. https://doi.org/10.14434/sdh.v1i2.23253
Special Issue "Cultural Heritage and New Technologies 2016"


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