Incorporating 3D Models into FPAN Curriculum

At the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s East Central office we have been hard at work adapting 3D modeled and printed objects into curriculum based on artifacts recovered from the Kingsley Plantation National Park Site, a former slave plantation in northeast Florida. FPAN and the Kingsley Plantation host an annual workshop for teachers to introduce Project Archaeology curriculum and the site-specific supplemental, Investigating a Tabby Slave Cabin . The supplemental curriculum uses the archaeological investigations of one of the plantation’s slave cabins as the framework for discussing how archaeologists investigate shelter.  One of the educational aids used in teaching the curriculum is a floor mat based on plan drawings of the site. Teachers and students then use paper cutouts of artifacts recovered from the site. While this is a neat idea, the problem is that paper cutouts are not terribly engaging to adults, let alone children.

Participants in the Project Archaeology workshop that takes place at the Kingsley Plantation work together to recreate an archaeological site to learn how archaeologists investigate the concept of shelter. Here, they are using cut-outs of artifact drawings to replace them into their original context.

A real improvement to the curriculum could be made if the paper cutouts were replaced with 3D printed models. FPAN requested access to a portion of the Kingsley Plantation artifacts from the National Park Service which were housed at the University of Florida. This portion of the collection is currently a part of ongoing research of the site under the direction of Dr. James Davidson, who directed the archaeological research upon which the FPAN curriculum is based.  One thousand photos in eighteen sets later, I was ready to start on the real work of photogrammetry

(Left) author Jeffery Robinson collects pictures for processing. (Right) Example of 360 round-table set-up for photography of artifacts.

The program that I used for photogrammetric rendering was Agisoft Photoscan, as it is the standard program for this use in the archaeological community. Now, because we had used a lightbox to shoot the artifacts in, masking the photos became a necessity. Trying to process without the masks caused Agisoft to render the model incorrectly. I also found several other reasons for errors in rendering: sharp edges, flat surfaces, reflective surfaces, and differences in lighting. Due to this and other errors, only twelve of the eighteen photosets were able to be completed. Those models can be viewed, and pending NPS review, downloaded  here.

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All of the completed models as shown on The models will be available for view/download pending NPS review.

After uploading, I printed out the models on a Makerbot 5th Generation Replicator. This is a great machine for printing out good quality models and is pretty user friendly too. After a short experimentation period to get it set up right, I was able to print out all of the models. The models were then sanded down with a dremel to provide a nice even surface. The models were then painted to provide more realism, as no one wants to look at a boring grey model.  Hopefully we will soon be able to send kits of these objects out to go with the curriculum sometime in the future.

(Top left) 3D models are printed on a Makerbot 3D printer. (Top right) the printed, plastic 3D models. (Bottom) The author applies acrylic paint to the models.


Jeffery Robinson has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Central Florida. He has been volunteering at FPAN’s East Central office for the past year.