Preserving Artifacts with 3D Scanning: Blumberg’s Unusual Iowa Celt

Post Date: 

Friday, September 29, 2017

by John Doershuk, Angela Collins, and Elizabeth Reetz, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist.

3D Scanning at OSA

As resources and time permit, OSA is making and archiving 3D scans of artifacts in the State Archaeological Repository, and as opportunity allows, of items in private collections. The 3D scans are valuable research tools as they allow researchers to accurately assess—and measure—artifacts attributes which are not accessible through traditional 2D photographs, even when recorded in high resolution. Currently, we have a NextEngine 3D Laser Scanner, which uses multi-laser scanning technology to create 3D surface models and 3D reproductions. Scan Studio HD Pro software produces a textured 3D model, and we have the option to send these models to other UI partners for 3D printing. 3D printed reproductions allows researchers access to a physical object when the original is too fragile or otherwise unavailable.

We have been uploading some of our scans to Sketchfab, an online platform to publish and share 3D content that is viewable on mobile and desktop browsers. See our collection so far

The Blumberg Celt

Click on the image to transfer to the interactive 3D model on Sketchfab!


All available documentation indicates this celt, loaned by Alex Blumberg to the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist for analysis, was originally discovered in Iowa. Unfortunately the owner previous to Mr. Blumberg has passed away, and there are no additional records. If this celt is from Iowa, it is of unusual form; an issue which we continue to examine. Part of the documentation process for such loaned items is careful color digital photography and 3D scanning. Although not a common type of ground stone artifact for Iowa it is not unheard of. The lithic material appears to be either dense basalt or perhaps an iron bearing granitic rock type with a quartz/silicate intrusive band near the distal end. The manufacturing pattern, surface striations, and polish all appear consistent with other native manufactured ground stone tool types. The pole appear to be pitted from repeated hammering typical of this tool type and the bit also has wear patterns consistent with aboriginal use. Our literature search implies that this form may be most consistent with Middle to Late Woodland time periods. 

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