The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6118 3D Recording, Modelling and Interpretation

Module Overview

By the end of this module you will be familiar with many tools employed to capture the 3d complexity of archaeological data. You will understand and be able to apply key methods in the documentation of such data and be able to use computer aided design and modelling tools to build on them. You will have experience designing and implementing 3d hardware and software solutions to archaeological problems and evaluating their impact on recording and interpretation. You will also critique your application of technology and be able to identify key elements of novel 3d computer science research of value to future archaeological researchers. As a translator between 3d computing and archaeology you will produce clear reports explaining and evaluating your chosen computing methodologies in specific cultural heritage contexts.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this module are to:

  • provide a grounding in the tools available for 3d data capture of archaeological sites and objects
  • introduce you to the theory and practical examples of generating two and three-dimensional computer representations of archaeological data using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, via modelling and animation tools, and interactive approaches such as game engines.
  • encourage debate and provide knowledge of the theoretical implications of archaeological 3d data and visualisations.
  • provide a basis for self-learning of CAD, 3d data capture and graphical representation methodologies, and their application to archaeology.

Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding:

  • the theory and practical examples of generating two and three-dimensional computer representations of archaeological data
  • CAD, 3d data capture and modelling software techniques

Cognitive (thinking) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate alternative methods for using 3d data in archaeological interpretation and presentation
  • design, implement and critique creative 3d data solutions to archaeological problems

Practical (subject specific) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather, document and refine 3d archaeological data
  • apply CAD, graphical modelling and related techniques
  • integrate a variety of computerised 3d methodologies to address archaeological problems

Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan, design, implement and evaluate the use 3d data capture and modelling software and hardware
  • learn and apply new 3d data skills through self-study
  • document 3d software approaches.


Typically, the syllabus will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to 3d data capture techniques and modelling formats
  • Non-contact digitisation e.g. laser scanning and contact digitisation
  • Reflectance Transformation Imaging
  • Introduction to CAD
  • Drawing management
  • 3d modelling approaches
  • CAD data linking and documentation
  • Introduction to 3ds Max
  • 3d modelling environment
  • 3d modelling approaches
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Interaction technologies – game engines 

Special Features

You will learn skills that can lead on to professional accreditation via Autodesk examinations during your student registration. The examples used on the module largely derive from on-going staff research with which you may have the opportunity to become directly involved. Each of the assignments is structured around a small research project, designed to develop your project management, research design and report writing skills.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:96
Private study hours:204
Total study time: 300 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include

  • contact hours distributed over two lectures and two supervised practical classes each week. Additionally, you are expected to undertake some background reading into the current and historical applications of 3d data capture and modelling techniques within archaeology.
  • tutorials conducted periodically during the module to assist learning and evaluate progress.
  • optional fieldwork opportunities in support of the module taking place throughout the semester in which it is taught.

Learning methods include

  • unsupervised use of program-specific and general online and other electronic tutorials and other exercises.
  • completion of a short practical assignment each week on which you will receive informal feedback the following week.
  • use of online learning resources
  • use of library resources
  • preparation, design and participation in presentations of specific aspects relating to the module.

Resources and reading list

Andrews, D., Bedford, J., Blake, B., Cromwell, T. and Lea, R. (edited by John Bedford and Heather Papworth). 2010. Measured & Drawn:  Techniques and practice for the metric survey of historic buildings. English Heritage. Available from

Ching, F.D.K. 2002. Architectural Graphics (4th Edition). Wiley

Eiteljorg II, H., Fernie, K., Huggett, J. and Robinson, D. 2002. ADS CAD Guide to Good Practice. Available from:

You will be using AutoCAD and 3ds Max a great deal during this module so you may choose to buy an appropriate guide. As these change very rapidly it is best to contact the module convener direct for current suggestions but these could include:

  • Harper, J. 2012. Mastering Autodesk 3ds Max 2013. Wiley. This is the Autodesk official training guide.
  • Omura, G. 2012. Mastering AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013. Wiley. This is the Autodesk official training guide.
  • Another excellent reference book is Finkelstein, E. 2012. AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT 2013 Bible. Wiley.

Also look through:

CSA Newsletter (CAD sections):

Internet Archaeology:

ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage

ISPRS proceedings (particularly commission V)

Proceedings of the Computer Applications in Archaeology conferences


Assessment methods

Formal Assessments:

  • Data Capture Assignment (2500 words) - 30% - This assignment will test awareness of the breadth of 3d data capture tools, ability to employ a subset of these in a specific archaeological case study, and evaluate their use.
  • Computer Aided Design assignment (2500 words) - 30% - This assignment will test the ability to choose appropriate CAD methods to address an archaeological question, to critique their applications, and thoroughly document their outcomes.
  • Modelling and interaction assignment (3000 words) - 40%  - This assignment will test ability to design a portfolio of software and hardware solutions to a particular archaeological problem and to produce 3d models in response. It requires evaluation of methods and data and of the theoretical context within which they are employed.

Informal feedback assessment will be provided to you as you progress through the module. In part this is structured around completion of practical exercises each week for which you will receive informal feedback. This is aimed at highlighting areas needing special additional attention and identifying new lines of inquiry and development. Specifically, informal feedback assessments will be provided via:

  • Discussion list supervised by module convener
  • Practical exercises
  • Tutorials
  • Supervised practicals

    You are also invited to sit the Autodesk AutoCAD Associate and Professional exam/s during their registration period. No degree credits are associated with this.

Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites



Programmes in which this module is compulsory

This is a core module in the MA Archaeological Computing programme

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