Archaeologist - Sketchup for reconstructions?


Hi! I’m not sure this is the right category for this post - hopefully someone will redirect me if I’m wrong. I would like to create a model building into which I could insert (preferably already textured) 3D models of individual architectural fragments - basically, to have Platonic “walls” that I could use as a framework for experimenting with and illustrating where certain pieces of architecture (mostly big stone blocks) may have originally been placed. Does this sound like a Sketchup project? I want to know whether it makes sense to take the time to learn the software. Thanks in advance for any input you might have!
(I’ve been googling around all day to see if I could find someone who has done a similar project, with Sketchup or other software, but I haven’t found anything!)


This sounds like a very cool project and I think sketchup could be a good tool for it. You can certainly create 3d walls or wireframe in whatever shape you want to exact dimensions, and these walls could be rendered transparent. You can recreate fragments or blocks in good detail (even applying a photograph of the found object to the surface), and you can easily move these pieces around with precision. You could even geolocate your model and lay the modern world location over or around it, some further learning of layers and section slices could make for some very cool presentations. Not sure what you mean by “preferably already textured”. I would need to understand that desire a bit better to recommend a way to achieve it in sketchup, but in general sketchup is fast and user friendly and very capable.

and has a great support in the user forum :wink:

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Wow - yes, I’m impressed with the forum already! Thanks! :grinning: When it comes to the blocks, I was thinking of taking photogrammetric models (as obj files) and placing them in the Platonic building. It looks like there are extensions that let you bring in .obj’s, and if it works like I’m imagining it, it would be possible to move the blocks around, almost as if they were toy building blocks, to represent hypothetical positions for them in the building as it originally stood…


I seem to recall that @Aerilius is or was an archaeologist and has used SU to do research on ancient sites. Perhaps he can chime in?

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Have a look at the following to get you started…


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Hi Blackbyrde. Although this is my first day on the forum (also impressed) I have been using sketchup since 2007 for architectural design, historic restoration, and engineering/fabrication. I have used the software for similar tasks and can assure you this is the epitome of a sketchup project.

As endlessfix said, sketchup is perfectly suited to generate the Platonic building, in which you can easily arrange and rearrange the pre-textured blocks imported in .obj format. In response to your other concern, the software is very easy to get comfortable with and would definitely be worth learning for this project and probably many others in your field. If you have any further questions with regards to using the software for architectural applications you know where to find the answers!

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Not archaeologist by profession, but I seriously considered that. Still I enjoy it a lot!

SketchUp’s strength is quickly creating sketches and experimenting with ideas, like moving objects around. I think for that purpose it will be very useful. However the drawing tools and inferencing support users very well in drawing rectangular and orthogonal shapes (architecture), not so much organic shapes (rounded stone blocks, awry buildings). There are techniques and extensions for organic shapes, but it was not a primary design focus.

Obj import is also a built-in feature of SketchUp Pro (the one for professional/commercial use).

I see possible problems with the complexity and polycount of photogrammetric models. As said, SketchUp is focussed on simple models, and its inferencing engine tries to be helpful and consider any vertex to snap to. Due to this one can encounter performance limits with scanned models earlier than with other software on the same hardware (e.g. game engines, but those have not the same requirements as modelers).
Usually you reduce scanned models first in MeshLab. I know users doing photogrammetry with SketchUp for who this works well.

What could be interesting is to use gravity (e.g. with MS Physics extension) to test if objects can have been placed in a certain way.

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Csaba Pozsárkó - aka Gaieus.
Is a polymath and an an archaeologist - and is now in change of historical buildings etc in Pecs, Hungary.
He was [?] a Sage and also a co-founder/moderator at
However, his recent professional commitments and increased workload have meant we have see less of him in the last year or two…
I know that he used SketchUp to recreate archaeological excavations etc.

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Thanks so much everyone! @aerilius, thanks for the heads up - I’ll make sure to look into the best way to clean up my meshes (if I can get that far with Sketchup! :smile:) It sounds like it’s definitely worth a try!! I’m excited to get started…

@harmoog, is any of your stuff (or similar) online where I could take a peek at it?

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