3D Modeling the Junction Group Earthworks

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Bidding Farewell to the Junction Group for now
Junction Group Earthworks being photographed from the air by drone.

The Junction Group sits among the aggregation of earthwork groups located in Ross County, Ohio.  The first description of the Junction Group appeared in Squire and Davis’ 1848 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, and Squire and Davis mapped nine small, geometric enclosures arranged in a U-shaped pattern and four mounds within the site.  The shapes of the enclosures included circles, squares with rounded corners, and U-shaped enclosures.

Jamie Davis of Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. created this model of the Junction Group in the winter of 2016 through the process of drone based photogrammetry.  Photogrammetry allows for the creation of high-detailed, 3-Dimensional models from photographs.  These models facilitate numerous functions related to archaeology and historic preservation.

In 2005 Dr. Jarrod Burks, Principal Investigator at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. conducted a magnetic, geophysical survey of the Junction Group and discovered that while Squire and Davis’ original map was fairly accurate, one of their small square-shaped enclosures was actually a quatrefoil.  To date, the quatrefoil within the Junction Group is the only known enclosure of this type in the Ohio River Valley.  In 2014-2015, Dr. Burks completed a second, higher resolution magnetic survey of the Junction Group and found numerous small features and a small, wood-post circle.  Although a radio carbon date has not been obtained from the Junction site, the site is most likely around 2000 years old and represents a type of earthwork group that probably falls within a cultural transition period that modern archaeologist would call late Adena or early Hopewell.

Although the Junction Group had been known since at least the 1840’s, the site had always remained on private property and was continuously plowed within an agricultural field.  In 2014, the property that contained the Junction Group became available to purchase through auction by the highest bidder, and the probability of the Junction Group being bought by developers existed.  So, the “Save the Junction Group” campaign began.  A joint effort among many concerned organizations began to raise funds through donations to buy the Junction Group property, and at auction, the Archaeological Conservancy purchased the Junction Group.  Today, the Junction Group is open to the public.  The archaeological easement is maintained by the Archaeological Conservancy, and the park is maintained by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System.  As seen in the Junction Group model, the enclosures are highlighted by interpretive mowing based on Dr. Burks 2014-2015 magnetic survey sponsored by the Heartland Earthwork Conservancy.

Jamie has created several models of earthwork sites, including Serpent Mound, the Steel Group, Snake Den Mound Group, the Grave Creek Mound, and the World Heritage Site Sutton Hoo located in the United Kingdom, and historic buildings, such as the 5th Church of Christ Scientist in Cleveland, Ohio and the Zenas Jackson House in Columbus, Ohio.  All of these models have provided an unprecedented view of the earthworks or historic building, and in some cases found previously unknown components of well-known sites.  Some of these models, Serpent Mound and the Grave Creek Mound model to name two, are planned to be used in a fashion similar to this Junction model, as interactive, public outreach, in a sense bring the site to the public.

Photogrammetry models, however, provide more than just a way for the public to interact with an archaeological site.  The photogrammetry process can create high resolution aerial imagery and topographic data that can be an integral part of the scientific investigation and mapping of an archaeological site or historic property.  The data can be accurately georeferenced and measured, and the topography data can show subtle surface details of a site that may not even be noticed through in-person visual inspection.  Once created, models provide a snapshot of a site or building as it was at the time of data collection, and then can be used as a referenced to document past activities or future changes to a site.

In the case of the now demolished 5th Church of Christ Scientist, the photogrammetry model provides the best representation of a beautiful building that is now gone.  In the case of a park such as the Junction Group, the model can be used to help maintain the site in the future (If you look closely at the Junction model, some of the walking paths actually pass over the earthworks).  The process can work so well, that Jamie’s Sutton Hoo model will be presented at the 2017 International Conference on Archaeological Prospection (ISAP) in Bradford, England as a case study for management of World Heritage Sites.

Other examples of Jamie’s photogrammetry work as well as videos and interactive models are available on Facebook @3DArchaeology.

~Jamie Davis

Bio: Jamie Davis has been employed at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc., since 2010 and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 2009.  He earned his B.A. degree in anthropology and B.A. degree in mathematics from Ohio University in 2002 and 2006.  Jamie also earned a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Masters Certificate from Penn State University in 2011.  He has developed a particular interest in the spatial arrangement of archaeological sites as pertaining to various terrain and environmental variables, and has presented his findings at numerous professional conferences.  Jamie began working with drones and photogrammetry in the spring of 2015 and has created nearly fifty photogrammetry models.  Jamie’s ambition is to incorporate drones and photogrammetry into mainstream archaeology and historic preservation.

Watch the Drone fly over the Junction Group Earthworks

Learn more about the ongoing effort to Save the nearby Steel Earthworks and the work to Save the Junction Group Earthworks

Junction Group Earthworks along with the Steel Earthworks site

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