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Tremough miners unearth Greek history

Surveying equipment from the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus has been put to the unusual task of capturing a thousand years of Greek history. A high definition laser scanner, normally used by the University's Camborne School of Mines (CSM) for surveying quarries and geological structures, is helping archaeologists uncover the history of one of the most important sites in Greece, the Palace of Knossos.

Tremough based mining engineer Andy Wetherelt and landscape archaeologist Adam Spring recently accompanied archaeologists from the University's Exeter Campus, the British School at Athens and the Greek Archaeological Service on a four day visit to the island of Crete. Using the University's high definition laser scanner, they captured detailed and accurate images of a 1500m² section of the Palace of Knossos. They have now manipulated their scans to produce a virtual 3D image of parts of the site, which will allow archaeologists back at the University to navigate the Palace and examine minute details of its structure and stonework.

CSM mining engineer Andy Wetherelt said: "This equipment was designed for surveying but based on the results we have from this project it could become a major tool for archaeologists. We are starting to look into the possibility of using the scanner to survey some of Cornwall's most important historical buildings, so we hope that the work we did in Crete will pave the way for local research projects."

University of Exeter archaeologist Dr Carl Knappett said: "Using more traditional methods, it would have taken us weeks to gather the information we managed to get in just four days using the laser scanner. Looking at the 3D images we have from the visit is almost like still being at the Palace – it's amazing."

The Palace of Knossos is the oldest known settlement that belonged to the Minoan civilization. Now one of the most popular tourist attractions on Crete, with nearly 1 million visitors a year, it was excavated by famous archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th century. Though Evans based his history of the entire Minoan civilization on his work at Knossos, there has been a surprising lack of detailed research carried out on the Palace since then.

Dr Knappett continued: "Working with colleagues based in Greece, we see the collaboration with CSM as an important addition to our efforts to understand the development of the Palace at Knossos and the Minoan civilisation nearly 4000 years ago. The Palace of Knossos is a fascinating place that had a whole host of roles in ancient Cretan society. It's like Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Wembley rolled into one, and can probably tell us more about ancient Greek culture than anywhere else."

Believed to be one of only ten such machines in UK universities, the University of Exeter's high definition laser scanner is used for research and teaching at CSM and its Tremough based Geography department. It has also been used for local consultancy work, which required an accurate and detailed survey to be produced in a short space of time.

Camborne School of Mines (CSM) was founded in 1888 and became part of the University of Exeter in 1993. CSM has an international reputation for research and teaching related to the understanding and management of the Earth's natural processes, resources and the environment. Its portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree programmes in mining engineering, mineral processing, applied and engineering geology, surveying and renewable energy provide an excellent basis for careers, in the UK or overseas, within the Earth resources, civil engineering, environmental and energy sectors. The vast majority of CSM graduates are employed in areas related to their degree. CSM is based at the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus, near Penryn.

The £100 million Tremough campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It has received investment from the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter now offers degrees in Biology, Cornish Studies, English, Geology, Geography, History, Law, Mining Engineering, Politics and Renewable Energy on its Tremough Campus, which has expanded rapidly as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, on 013902 262062 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The University of Exeter is a partner of the CUC.


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Clare Morgan
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