Freelance consultant for digital heritage

3D Excavation Snapshot – St Piran’s Oratory in March 2014

Earlier this year (2014), I was asked to record a rather unglamourous pile of concrete rubble. It was within the boundary of a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), and for health and safety reasons – very good ones – needed to be removed to allow the re-excavation of the medieval St Piran’s Oratory to continue. Whilst recording the 1910 concrete (reduced to rubble in 1980) to an extremely fine level using photogrammetry, many of my photos captured the excavation and wider site beyond.

On St Pirans Day itself, I took many photos of the excavation during breaks, and until now, haven’t really looked at them. It occurred to me that I had plenty of photos of the site from all angles. Upon reviewing them, I realised that I could probably create a crude 3D model of the excavation as it stood on that day – a real 3D snapshot in time. And so I did.

If you have a recent browser (Chrome, Safari or Firefox and maybe the latest Internet Explorer) and a computer that’s 5 years old or less, explore the interactive model below, or view it on Sketchfab.

[iframe width=”100%”  src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen=”true” webkitallowfullscreen=”true” onmousewheel=””]


Of course, this is only a visual overview of the site, and the model should not be used for any metric purposes (there are no scales present to provide units and test metric integrity). However, I think that it is useful to communicate the excavation and the waterlogged conditions that archaeologists and volunteers had to work in. Waterlogged sand is heavy and sinks wheelbarrows, and you can see the “crib hut” – our only shelter from the rain – fashioned from Harris fencing and blue tarpaulin. The top courses of the surviving concrete wall from 1910 can be clearly seen, and parts of the medieval structure were just starting to appear.

I have used the annotations feature on Sketchfab to provide five clickable points which provide descriptions and a defined view. Try clicking on the numbers to explore the model.

With luck, if funding is successful, the excavation will recommence, and with the help of engineers, archaeologists, and a great deal of experts, the Oratory will be fully exposed sometime in 2015.