A high-tech tool used by detectives in crime scene investigation (CSI) also saves a lot of work for archaeologists.

On the last day of a dig last month at an Etzanoa excavation site in Arkansas City, Wichita State University anthropologist Don Blakeslee invited a reporter to see what the latest scanning technology can do.

Blakeslee invited David Klamm, who directs the WSU forensic science program, to the dig site. He was accompanied by a former colleague, Ryan Rezzelle, a former CSI investigator who now works for Leica Geosystems.

CSI crime scene investigation technology used to excavate Etzanoa

Photo by Foss Farrar

Rezzelle showed the latest Leica product, an RTC360 scanner that works with a handheld computer device or tablet. The RTC360 was being beta-tested that day. It has not yet reached the general market for use in law enforcement or archaeology.

It can scan a large area, 360 degrees, in just a few minutes. It also transmits the high, dynamic-range photos within seconds to the handheld computer device, providing an accurate map view of the scene.

Rezzelle said he spent 16 years as a crime enforcement officer for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas City, Missouri, police.

He also is a former colleague of Klamm’s.

“Forensic archaeology aligns with public safety work,” Rezzelle said. “Tools for this work are perfect for archaeological work.”

Klamm said it was great to share the latest CSI technology with the seven student archaeologists working under Blakeslee throughout June.

He added that, compared to using older investigative methods, the new tool saves archaeologists — and crime investigators — much time in the lab. “I would have to go back and spend at least half a day in what he can do at the scene with this device,” Klamm said.

“The important thing with Don (Blakeslee) — he doesn’t just do traditional archaeology, but (he) invites any new technology that might be useful,” he added.

“Just eight minutes of scanning provides us a three-dimensional model of everything we do here,” Blakeslee said.

The Etzanoans were ancestors of today’s Wichita Nation, archaeologists say.

The “great settlement,” as Spanish conquistadors who visited Etzanoa in 1601 described it, existed along the banks of the lower Walnut River near its confluence with the Arkansas River.

Between 1450 to 1715, Etzanoa thrived as a community of 20,000 farmers and bison hunters who lived in clusters of beehive-shaped grass-and-wood houses, surrounded by agricultural fields of corn, beans and squash.

This information was provided by Etzanoa Conservancy member Foss Farrar.