Terrestrial laser scanning, geomorphology and archaeology of a Roman gypsum quarry (Vena del Gesso Romagnola area, Northern Apennines, Italy)

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Roman-period extractive sites in gypsum outcrops are very rare, and most have become very degraded by later weathering or quarrying activities. This paper describes, using laser scanning, photogrammetry and survey using a UAV-based survey, the uniquely well-preserved Roman-period gypsum quarry of Ca’ Castellina (Northern Apennines, Italy). This site was excavated only in the last few years and the excavations have brought to light some gypsum blocks and the ancient quarry benches showing excavation marks, the remains of a rectangular building and a great number of artefacts that range between the Protohistoric Period and the modern times. The size of the extracted blocks, the extraction methodologies and the age of a charcoal fragment (361 – 178B CE) found immediately at the contact between the gypsum quarry floor and the infilling sediments date the quarry back to the Roman age. Archaeological evidences demonstrate the building to have been used for a short period of time during the XVI-XVII century. Immediately after its abandonment most of the quarry floor has been covered with a thick detrital layer, protecting it from dissolution (fossilizing this floor and leaving it as if it was abandoned very recently), whereas the naked or poorly covered floor of this quarry has been subjected to dissolution phenomena of the exposed gypsum rocks, with a lowering of the surface, the smoothening of the corners and the formation of a set of deeply carved karren features. A 3D survey using both a laser scanning instrument and a drone-mounted photo camera have allowed to get precise measures on the size of the blocks that were extracted in this quarry, the traces of pick axe marks, and on the dissolution morphologies that have developed on the bare gypsum rock. These typical gypsum landforms show how fast these solution forms can develop where concentrated runoff flows on bare gypsum. To prevent this exceptional archaeological extractive site of being further dissolved, it will be important to plan some measures to be put in place in order to protect this delicate historical landmark.

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... Here, LiDAR data provide new insights into mapping and classifying geomorphologic mining features, as well as their distribution, dimensions, and spatial relationships. This knowledge is important for research on landscape change, especially for monitoring landform evolution (Jancewicz et al., 2021) and providing greater insight into archaeology and mining history (Fabbri et al., 2021;Gawior et al., 2017). ...
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Conference Paper
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The IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon calibration curves have been revised utilizing newly available and updated data sets from 14C measurements on tree rings, plant macrofossils, speleothems, corals, and foraminifera. The calibration curves were derived from the data using the random walk model (RWM) used to generate IntCal09 and Marine09, which has been revised to account for additional uncertainties and error structures. The new curves were ratified at the 21st International Radiocarbon conference in July 2012 and are available as Supplemental Material at The database can be accessed at © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.
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The analytical problems of dating gypsum speleothems with the U-series technique are reviewed. Gypsum speleothems are, in general, very low in U content, challenging the limits of detection methods. Various approaches to dissolving gypsum and isolation of actinides from the matrix include ion-pairing dissolution with magnesium salts and using nitric acid. The most precise dating technique is Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS), combined with Fe(OH)3 scavenging and anionic exchange chromatography. Less satisfactory, but much quicker, is direct retention of actinides from HNO3 by means of TRU resin and MC-ICP-MS detection. We have tested these methods on gypsum speleothems from the Sorbas karst in Spain and from the Naica caves in Mexico.
In the last decade, archaeological fieldwork has seen the increasing use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs, also: drones) and photogrammetrical techniques as tools for mapping archaeological traces in two and three dimensions. Drones allow for great control over the collection of imagery and in combination with photogrammetry put airborne 3D data capture at the disposal of archaeologists, whether they are dealing with excavations, monuments, or complete landscapes. The success of applying any new tool must however be judged in the end by a careful assessment of its tangible improvements of the primary data collection process considering expended project resources. In this context, it is important to point out that the added value of producing, often still laborious, 3D models for the primary process of data collection in field archaeology is not yet completely self-evident. Although 3D recording may be a useful additional layer of documentation for those who can afford it, the question remains to what degree the time, equipment and personnel investment actually improves our capabilities of doing archaeology. In this paper, I propose a new, well-defined, transparent and standardized mapping approach based on the combination of a budget UAS and straightforward photogrammetrical techniques, fully embedded in the workflow of knowledge production in archaeological excavation. I will reflect on the future potential of this approach, as well as engage with the ongoing discussion about developments in the processes of documentation and interpretation.
observations using terrestrial laser scanning and 3D photogrammetry in a gypsum cave Abstract Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) and 3D photogrammetry techniques were used in a relatively small (100-m-long) cave developed in Messinian gypsum in Emilia-Romagna (N. Italy). The surveys were carried out to compare the results obtained by both methods in mapping small-to medium-sized morphologies. These measurements allowed reconstructing the evolution stages of the paragenetic (anti-gravitative) morphologies (ceiling channels and pendants) that carved the roof of the cave, and their relationship with local geomorphology, infilling sediments, speleothems, and structural elements. Field measurements were integrated with morphometrical analyses of the digital models that then allowed a much greater number of observations to be made. The results are a clear example of how the combination of TLS and 3D-photogrammetric data can be used to study and measure mm-to dm-scale morphologies in geomorphological studies, including caves, helping to unravel the speleogenetic and, consequently, the hydrological evolution of these environments.
The topic of this research consists in the description of landscape modifications occurring from the 4th century BC to the 19th century AD as a consequence of quarrying activities on carbonate slopes along a tract of the ancient Appia route crossing the central Apennine belt at the Aurunci Mountain pass (Lazio region, central Italy). The main objectives were to discern different quarrying phases and techniques, quantify quarrying activities and understand the role of quarrying in create morphological features. Multidisciplinary studies were completed including aerial photogrammetry, geoarchaeological field surveys, morphometric characterization of quarry areas, structural analysis of rock outcrops aided by terrestrial photogrammetry, GPS measurements. The results of this study show how the local geomorpological and tectonic setting determined which kinds of extractable rock material, i.e., rock blocks or breccias, were used for different purposes. Moreover, different phases of extraction were evidenced. A main Roman quarrying phase, lasting between the 4th century BC and the 1st century AD, was recognized as taking place over eight quarry areas. These are delimited by sharp edges and have regular shapes, revealing in some cases a staircase-like morphological profile, and are characterized by similar volumes of extracted rock material. A later quarrying phase —the Bourbon Age, 19th century AD—is assumed to be evidenced instead by five quarries with a peculiar semi-elliptical shape and different volumes of carved material. Seven quarries were found to be of uncertain age. The quarry system described in this paper, together with geomorphological records of slope cuts, terraced surfaces, and the remains of retaining walls, represents a unique and important example of anthropogenic landscape modification in the territory of the central Apennines caused by the construction and maintenance of a Roman road over the centuries. This could be relevant for further studies on the relations between natural environments and the development of civilisation. In addition, the multi-methodological analyses of geomorphological records originated by quarrying activities may be considered for the characterization of similar quarry landscapes
Researchers today recognize the importance of production techniques when studying architectural elements, works of art and, in general, all dressed stone. Despite important contributions by fore-runners such as Stanley CASSON and J. WARD PERKINS it must be recognized that this kind of research still presents large unexplored areas. Technical data are often forsaken because archaeologists and art historians are rarely trained for studying them in detail. Yet these data are very i.nterdependant on the artistic, architectural, economic and cultural questions raised by these same productions. In order to deal correctly with this complex problem, while giving it a statistical reliability, it is essential that the elementary knowledge necessary for collecting data in the field be spread largely outside the narrow circle of specialists in stone and marble. Without attempting to cover such a vast programme in a few lines, it seems useful to present a rapid review of the principal marks likely to be left by Greek and Roman tools on marble and similar stone. These stones are in general hard, consequently this brief summary mentions only accessory tools used for working soft stone. Some chronological questions and some specific technical problems will also be treated from time to time. Because of difficulties of vocabulary and of the translation of traditional technical terms, whenever possible, a translation of tool names will be given in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch. When the name does not exist in English, the tool will be simply described (1). In order to illustrate as clearly as possible the appearance of tool marks, the illustrations concerning dressing and carving operations show fresh tool impacts photographed in oblique light.
Image-based 3D modeling has already proven its value for the recording of excavations, however until now its application has remained rather small-scale. We have examined the possibilities and limitations of image-based 3D modeling in the recording of an entire excavation, and its impact on the workflow of the excavation process and the post-excavation processing. Our results suggest that image-based 3D modeling can be an excellent and suitable method for the recording, documentation and visualization of the excavated archaeological heritage. It offers great possibilities for increasing the quality of the archived archaeological excavation record. The high-resolution geometric information allows a straightforward quantification of the data. However it also brings along new challenges, including a change in the workflow of the excavation and the post-excavation process. Although there are limitations, these are greatly surpassed by the possibilities of the method. We believe that image-based 3D modeling can cause a(n) (r)evolution in archaeological excavation practice.
Ancient quarries are intriguing archaeological sites, but their detailed recording is complex. This paper presents a cost-effective approach to mapping of the Roman quarry site of Pitaranha (Portugal–Spain). First, aerial photographs were acquired using a radio-controlled digital reflex camera attached to a Helikite, which allowed the acquisition of the necessary low-altitude aerial footage in the very unstable wind conditions above the quarry. Using computer vision algorithms, the resulting set of photographs was semi-automatically transformed into a Digital Surface Model (DSM) and a corresponding orthophotograph. Besides focusing on the acquisition and processing method, this paper evaluates the accuracy of the generated products. The orthophotograph proved to be satisfactorily accurate for 1:200 hard-copy mapping.
Gypsum: a jewel in Minoan Palatial architecture
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L'epoca d'oro della selenite a Bologna (the golden era of selenite at Bologna). Il Geologo dell
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La genesi di Forum Cornelii
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L’epoca d’oro della selenite a Bologna (the golden era of selenite at Bologna)
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Aemilia. La scultura romana in Emilia-Romagna dal III secolo a.C. all'età costantiniana [Aemilia. The roman sculpture in Emilia-Romagna from the 3rd century B.C. to the Constantine age
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Il vetro di pietra–il lapis specularis nel mondo romano dall’estrazione all’uso. [The glass of stone – lapis specularis in the roman times from its extraction to its use]
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Stone carving tools: a stone carver’s view
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