Brian Crane, Ph.D., RPA, Archae 3D LLC, bdcrane@archae3d.com

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Putting an 18th-Century Well Pump Back Together, Virtually

March 7, 2018

As part of the cultural resources work associated with the construction of an extension of Route 301 in Delaware, the Delaware Department of Transportation sponsored a series of archaeological studies. For one of these studies, Versar archaeologists and historians gathered information on archaeologically excavated wells from across Delaware to write a synthesis of what was learned.

 

Part of that study included preparing 3D reconstructions of the different kinds of wells that have been found. One of the more interesting wells found by archaeologists working on the Route 301 project was the dairy well at the Armstrong Rogers Site. Excavations by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group produced the remains of a pump formed from a single hollowed log. The 7.5 foot long surviving portion weighed nearly 400 pounds, and appears to have been supported by wooden footers at its base. But these had been displaced from their original location, and after excavation, were no longer connected to each other. 3D modeling and virtual reconstruction offered an opportunity to put the pieces back together again.

 

I visited the MAC LAB after conservation measures had been completed to take photographs for photogrammetry. Photogrammetry software, such as Agisoft Photoscan shown here, aligns neighboring photographs and estimates the distance between the photographs and the object. In this screen shot from Photoscan, the the blue rectangles represent the individual photographs taken. In order to get all sides, we turned the pump stock over and I took a second series of photographs. In order for the software to correctly match the two sets, it was necessary to mask out everything in the photographs except for the wood. Remains of cribbing was found at the base of the well, apparently to help keep the pump stock vertical, and I performed photogrammetry on these as well.

 

These are screen shots from Agisoft Photoscan; the blue rectangles represent the relative positions of all the photographs I took around the objects. The pump stock is the first one, and two pieces of the footers follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then imported the separate 3D modeled pieces into Autodesk Maya, assembled them in what may have been their original positions, and then modeled what the remainder of the well may have looked like. I visited the MAC LAB after conservation measures had been completed to take photographs for photogrammetry. Photogrammetry software, such as Agisoft Photoscan shown here, aligns neighboring photographs and estimates the distance between the photographs and the object. In this screen shot from Photoscan, the the blue rectangles represent the individual photographs taken. In order to get all sides, we turned the pump stock over and I took a second series of photographs. In order for the software to correctly match the two sets, it was necessary to mask out everything in the photographs except for the wood. Remains of cribbing was found at the base of the well, apparently to help keep the pump stock vertical, and I performed photogrammetry on these as well.

 

 

 Here's an animation of how valves placed inside the hole drilled through the pump stock worked to pull water to the top. 

 

 

If you want to read more, you can find a copy of a conference paper about the well synthesis here. You can find out more about the Armstrong Rogers site well, and the overall site from Dovetail Cultural Resource Group.

 

 

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