Surface scanning – New Perspectives for Archaeological Data Management and Methodology?

Documentation and publication of palaeolithic objects such as lithic artefacts, bone tools or mobile art is done since
decades mainly by drawings. These drawings are an indispensable part of scientific research and methodology.
Teaching drawing techniques is even integrated into the educational program at university level. Although creating a
drawing is very time consuming and requires training, until now it has not been replaced by photography. Taking a
picture of a palaeolithic object is obviously even more difficult than to make a drawing. To visualize all scientific
relevant features of an object in just one shot is not possible. The cost/performance ratio for drawings is therefore better
than for photography. Photos are used mainly to present objects to a broad public. Within the scientific community
drawings are the most frequent medium of information transfer.
Surface scanning of palaeolithic objects has the potential to substitute drawings as medium for scientific information
transfer. Polygon meshes are of high scientific value because they allow an objective record of the object and its digital
measuring. Once recorded, the digital data file can be transferred via internet and allows direct access to objects.
Prehistoric archaeology will have to adapt to this new recording technology and in the future data bases like NESPOS
which allow world wide access.
Key words: surface scanning, archaeological data management, documentation of palaeolithic artefacts, NESPOS