Jonathan Fowler, DPhil, associate professor of archaeology at Saint Mary’s University, combined a centuries-old map with a modern 3D terrain model to portray Fort Anne and its surrounding in stunning detail — just as the Nova Scotia site looked in 1706.

“Airborne LiDAR has become a powerful tool for archaeologists to tell the stories about our heritage while also providing historical information for us to study and interpret,” says Fowler, an associate.

Fowler created the 3D representation of Fort Anne using the Surfer surface mapping package from Golden Software of Golden, Colorado. To create the 3D map of Fort Anne, Fowler loaded airborne LiDAR data into the Surfer package to generate a ‘bare Earth’ terrain model depicting the topography of the area as it exists today, minus vegetation and buildings. Fowler exaggerated the LiDAR elevation values slightly in Surfer to emphasize relief. 

Next, the archaeologist obtained a digitized version of a 1706 military map from France’s National Archives showing the fort and nearby town. He overlaid the digital map on the terrain model in Surfer to create a realistic 3D view of Fort Anne shortly after its construction. Fowler repeated the process using a 1753 map from the Library of Congress to depict the site under British rule.

Detailed interpretation of the 3D model has only just begun, but Fowler believes previously unknown facts about Fort Anne and its surrounding landscape will be revealed.

Learn more about how surveying helps to preserve historic sites

“The 3D map reveals the original layout of buildings within the ramparts and outside the walls in the little town,” says Fowler. “Interestingly, most of the fort’s buildings no longer exist, but some structures still stand today in [the town of] Annapolis Royal and are among the oldest buildings in Canada.”