The QMA’s National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) welcomed on 8 February 2013 a team from the University of Exeter to start a one-month field project surveying 14 vessels from the QMA collection of dhows. By using a 3D laser scanning method, the Exeter team aims to produce digital 3D models of each of the dhows, together with more traditional naval and orthographic drawings.
The team comprises two maritime archaeologists, Dr John Cooper from the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter and Dr Chiara Zazzaro from the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, in addition to veteran mines engineer Dr Andy Wetherelt from the Camborne School of Mines at the University of Exeter.
Dr Cooper and Dr Zazzaro have worked for several years as part of the University of Exeter’s MARES project, recording traditional boats in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region using conventional surveying methods based on tape measures. By joining forces with Dr Wetherelt, they have been able to incorporate cutting-edge laser-survey technologies to the process of recording maritime heritage.
In conjunction with its field work, the Exeter team held a lecture at MIA on Sunday 3 March 2013 introducing the public to the objectives, methodology, and preliminary results of this project.
Commenting on the importance of this project for the NMoQ, Mr Faisal Al-Hitmi, NMoQ Deputy Director, said:
‘Our continuously growing dhow collection is considered one of the most important collections of traditional Arab and Indian Ocean boats in the world. It represents an important record of a disappearing heritage in the region. The 3D models that will result from this project will have multiple applications, including museum display, digital archives, and public education, and will become a lasting record of the collection.’
Dr John Cooper said:
‘It is hugely important to produce a digital record of the boats for the purpose of conservation and recording, but also to communicate this fascinating and exciting heritage to a wider audience. 3D laser scanning is an excellent way to achieve this goal’
The Exeter University team has been working for the past month at the QMA boatyard at Doha port recording vessels using a Leica HDS 6000 Laser scanner. Such scanners use a moving laser beam to record with great speed and accuracy any object placed before them. In addition to scanning the boats with laser, the team is also using precisely calibrated digital photography to photograph the boats from the same vantage points as the scans. This will allow them to combine the scans and photographs to produce realistic digital models of each of the dhows.
The team expects to have over 300 scans of the dhows by the end of the fieldwork phase. They will then start a post-processing phase of the collected data to have completed 3D models of dhows by the end of August.