Sketchup for archaeology

For my leadership project I worked with another field school student, Ellie, to create a 3-D model of Grand Ronde Agency School, one of the sites we investigated during field work. Sketchup ( is a free software developed by Trimble Navigation that can be downloaded on the internet and used for professional or personal projects. The program is catered towards industries like architecture, engineering, interior design, construction, urban planning, and gaming; however, we found it to be useful for archaeology as well for the ability to create renditions of archaeological sites and places.

After I downloaded the basic Sketchup software, there were a bunch of different add-ons that were available to download, some of which were free and some were a little pricey. We were able to get the job done using the free add-ons; however, we could have achieved greater detail with the more expensive add-ons. To recreate the schoolhouse the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office gave us access to historic photos of the Grand Ronde Agency School and an in depth report describing its architectural characteristics and history. Given the amount of information we had to work with, there was only a small amount of artistic interpretation in our re- creation.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.49.28 PM (Screenshot of our schoolhouse re- creation)

In the report I found that the Schoolhouse site was 800ft north off the intersection of Grand Ronde road and Highway 22. I was able to use Google Earth to find the actual aerial image of the schoolhouse site, which was very helpful! In the report I found documentation of the dimensions of the schoolhouses foundation. The schoolhouse actually consisted of four buildings: the schoolhouse, the kitchen, the gym, and the stage, the latter three which were additions to the original structure. I was able to compare the dimensions of the schoolhouses foundation from the report with the aerial photo from Google Earth, which was pretty awesome because it allowed me to build on top of the original foundation, which was photographed by Google Earth. From there Ellie and I began to build the school from foundations to the rooflines. We were unable to find the height of the building in the reports, but we were able to estimate the buildings height based on photos. There were a few photos with people standing in front of the building, so we used these people as a scale.

Our 3D re- creation was not perfect, but it definitely gave me a better understanding of the site of the schoolhouse as the building was demolished this past spring. The ability to view a 3 dimensional recreation of a site from different angles and perspectives helps us to get a deeper understanding of the site, and also facilitates the documentation, education, outreach, discussions, and preservation of this significant site for the Grand Ronde community.

Many technologies are created for other purposes, but prove to be extremely useful for archaeology. During our fieldwork at Grand Ronde we used a lot of technology that was not necessarily made specifically for archaeology. For example, we used a drone, compasses, maps, a GNSS receiver, a Total Station and Ground Penetrating Radar to survey the site; all of these tools have multi- purposes and were not created specifically for archaeology, but are extremely useful for archaeological purposes. This project helped me realize the importance of new technologies and how they might contribute to the documentation, conservation, education, outreach and understanding of future sites.



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