Modelling of underground cavities

The exploration of mining cavities is a key medium for studying the technical and economic activities of historical extractive industries. They are significant elements of all mining landscapes. Adequate surveying and representation is an important task here.

Classical site measurement, geared towards the production of 2D plans (ground plan, longitudinal section, cross-section) often leads to unclear and therefore unsatisfactory representations. The use of laser scanning techniques in conjunction with the possibilities offered by CAD systems and VR software, however, makes it possible to obtain a comprehensive, more easily understandable visualization of such cavities. In addition, the high concentration of data measurable today makes it possible to calculate surface areas and volumes, and to draw conclusions about the rate of mining advance and the quantity extracted. The aim now is to develop an intelligent measurement system with a specially adapted evaluation system, specifically for the documentation of complex cavities of any shape, created by historical mining activity, with the attendant narrowness, dirt, water etc., and also meeting area-dependent geometrical accuracy requirements. A 2D profile scanner is used to record consecutive gallery (cross-)sections. Synchronously with the geometrical data, a camera will be used to record the rock structure, i.e. the visual information from the surfaces. For lighting, which is of vital importance underground, high-performance LEDs are planned. The research department for mining archaeology has already developed core skills here, which will, however, have to be expanded for a wider scholarly public.
There is development potential in further mathematical techniques for graphic modelling of 3D surfaces, and for the recording and visualization of complex cavities. The main issues have to do with the recording of surface structures, the combination with archaeological excavation data, and the representation of various levels of information (visual data, structural data, technological data).
For this we need to develop data collection systems which are light and can be “handled” underground (laser scanning, photogrammetry; positioning and imaging systems) and a GIS-based 3D information system. The aim is to link the planned research project with the research department for information systems, and to include external partners from the field of archaeological visualization and data collection, surveying technology/speleology, and mathematics.


Gero Steffens

Project manager

Gero Steffens

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


Schweizerische Gesellschaft f. Höhlenforschung, La Chaux-de-Fonds

Dipl.-Phys. M. Heller / Freidorf


2000 - 2010