Students Use 3D Mapping Technology at Pictograph Cave - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Students Use 3D Mapping Technology at Pictograph Cave

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The Montana State Park system has teamed up with students from the University of Montana and MSU-Billings to form an archaeological field school, using 3D mapping technology.

From the work the students are doing, these tools will allow visitors to share in the experience of what was found during the original excavation more than 70 years ago.

"This means that it will be in perpetuity. By taking 3D scans of not only the caves but taking them of the valley and then taking the photogrammetry of the pictographs and the inscriptions, we will have it forever," says Ayme Swartz, a graduate student at the University of Montana.

Students are using 3D mapping technology to show locations of the more than 30,000 artifacts found during the original excavation.

"This is really cutting edge technology. Once we have this, we will have it forever. That's great! We will be able to learn from this 200 years from now," says Swartz.

"We can take the historical records from the excavation, the original excavation, once we have an accurate model of the valley, we can reference their drawings and their files into that model," says Tim Urbaniak, an Archaeology Digitalization Specialist from MSU-B.

Those working on the project say it's an excellent opportunity for students, and it will improve the publics understanding of what was found at the park more than 70 years ago.

"The better mapping information we have of the park, the more exact we can be in terms of where past archeological activities have occurred, where the back dirt pile is, so we can know all of that down to, within a couple centimeters," says Sara Scott, Manager of the Heritage Resources Program for Montana State Parks. "Allows us to better protect the resource which is really valuable to all of the people of Montana. But, also it gives us information about the park about past uses, that then we can transfer to visitors to the park."

"If we know what happened in the past, then hopefully we can use that to prepare ourselves for the future," says Urbaniak.

Pictograph Cave Park Managers also say it's a win win for the university and for the state park, because the students are able to learn at the archaeological site and provide information that would otherwise cost the state park tens of thousands of dollars.