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The University of Southampton
TAG 2016 Southampton

S20. Sightations Café

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Session sponsored by Archaeovision and Virtual Umbrella
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Session organizers:

Joana Valdez-Tullett (University of Southampton,, Helen Chittock (University of Southampton,, Kate Rogers (University of Southampton,, Grant Cox (Artasmedia,, Eleonora Gandolfi (University of Southampton, & Emilia Mataix (University of Southampton,

Session abstract:

Sightations is a space of exchange, where different perspectives on archaeological visualisation are displayed side by side. These are materialized in a variety of shapes and forms and in a range of media such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, films, gaming and virtual realities. Underpinning these works are ideas, statements, and stories. All intertwined with the practice or contemplation of archaeology and heritage, aiming to challenge our current perceptions of past representations and open new avenues of thought.

Although some pieces may speak for themselves, this event aims to dig deeper into the creational process. We invite all contributors and TAG delegates to join us for coffee and cakes, while we informally talk about the exhibition and get to know the participants and their work in more detail. Although Sightations’ contributors are particularly encouraged to participate, and will have the chance to specifically address their work (slots will be a maximum of 10 minutes long), the discussion is open to all those with an interest in the themes of Art, Archaeology, Digital Media, Film, Heritage, etc.

Sightations Café will take place within the galleries. If you are interested in taking part in this discussion, please let us know via the e-mail addresses provided, as spaces may be limited.

Session contributors:

Ken Takahashi (Yokohama History Museum, Japan) – Dogu-mime (Performing Art)

Dogu are clay figurines of the Jomon period (ca.16000-2400 calBP) which exaggerate the human image. The performance of dogu-mime entertains the audience by bringing dogu back to life using the human body. This is an attempt to visualize the ideas of the Jomon people, who made the dogu figurines, in an entertaining way. The performer is not only an archaeologist but also a mime (stage name: Hakucho- kyodai), who has been performing this dogu-mime on the streets, stages, and at museums in Japan, since 2010.

Matthew Fitzjohn and Peta Bulmer (University of Liverpool) – Denken mit LEGO

The title of this presentation is inspired by a LEGO product from the 1970s (Thinking with LEGO). This short presentation focuses on the use of LEGO as a medium with which to think about archaeology and visualise the past. The AHRC funded project Grand designs in Ancient Greece is using LEGO bricks to visualise archaeology from Classical Greece and to help design activities that encourage students to learn through creative collaborative play. We will share with you the motivations for working with LEGO, as well as the creative opportunities and problems that arise trying to think about and visualise archaeology with thousands of plastic bricks.

Andy Valdez-Tullett (Historic England) - ‘Danebury Environs – The Game’ experiments in map art

Most maps produced by archaeologists are, what Lefebvre (1991) would term, ‘Representations of space’. This is a scientific space, designed, quantified and plotted, a space reproducing and reinforcing socially constructed power relations. The use of Map Art moves the space created by maps to the artistic domain of ‘Representational spaces’, a largely symbolic spatial dimension that subverts ‘representations of space.’ It is space created through reaction, resistance and reappropriation. ‘Danebury Environs – The Game’ is such subversion through map art that moves an archaeological map and the ideas it embodies from the academic milieu to engage a broader, non-academic audience.

Hannah Sackett (Bath SPA University) – How can we give a voice to the archaeological record?

My archaeological comics are often narrated by artefacts or individuals from the past. This short talk will look at my process in creating these narratives through word and image. I will look at the research, discussion, scripting and thumbnailing stages behind the creation of the finished comic and explore the potential of comics to convey complex academic research in an accessible and engaging form.

John Swogger (Freelance) – Archaeology, Comics and Community: The Oswestry Heritage Comics Project

Oswestry Heritage Comics is a series of comics which I created about the history, archaeology and heritage of Oswestry, a small market town on the border between Shropshire and Powys. The comics were published this summer in a regional newspaper - the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer - over the course of fourteen weeks between July and October. The comics were created as part of my involvement in Heritage Open Days, and were designed to introduce historical and archaeological information about the town and surrounding area, as well as discuss issues facing local heritage sites, monuments, historic buildings and landscapes.

This presentation will briefly outline the background to my professional use of comics as a medium for visualising and presenting archaeology, history and heritage - as well as the specific practical and theoretical approaches which shaped the Oswestry Heritage Comics series. I will also discuss the subsequent development of the project beyond its initial iteration as a limited-run newspaper strip, and the implications this has for the use of comics as a visualisation and outreach medium in community-based archaeological practice.

Beatriz Comendador Rey (University of Vigo, Spain) – Exploring comics and illustration in rock art outreach

We present two works of archaeological inspiration, related with a spreading experience on rock art of exploring the possibilities of illustration and comics. The first is a collaborative tale entitled A viaxe do cabaliño (The journey of the little horse), created in the scope of the Upper Támega Project and inspired in a depiction on Penedo das Pisadiñas (Laza, Ourense, Northwestern Iberia). It was written in Galician, and illustrated by Manuela Elizabeth Rodríguez (Moli). The tale is rooted in legends involving fantastic jumping horses that connect different places in landscape. We have invited the local community to propose new jumps for this horse.

The second is a comic designed to tell the story and oral tradition of Enchanted Moors linked to the rock art of Os Ballotes (Arousa, Pontevedra, Northwestern Iberia).

Louise Fowler (Museum of London Archaeology) – Time in an urban landscape: 8-10 Moorgate, in the city of London

Most site reports and publications contain an attempt to visually reconstruct the layout of the site at different points in time through a set of phase plans. However, each plan is often not something that can be said to have actually existed at any particular moment in time, but contains features that may span years, decades or even centuries. An emphasis on form over process means that evidence for the incremental acts of construction, renewal and destruction that create and define the urban landscape can be obscured. It is on densely stratified sites, such as those found in the City of London, that this loss can seem most apparent. The site at 8-10 Moorgate, within the City of London, was extensively excavated by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) during several phases of work between 2010 and 2012, revealing several metres of stratified archaeological deposits with evidence for the occupation of the site from the 1st century AD to the present day. The work produced 5661 hand drawn plans of archaeological layers and features, which are shown simultaneously in the image on display in Sightations, in order to raise some questions about how we might look at this evidence differently.

Francis Wenban-Smith (University of Southampton) - Layered history, Storied Layers: Historic Environment Frameworks for the Ebbsfleet Valley

Historic Environment Frameworks are not intended for visual consumption. Rather, they are a curatorial tool that communicates, and enshrines, information about the heritage value of a landscape. They codify and conflate multiple layers of history, and interpretive stories. The landscape itself has an accreted history of sedimentary deposition and human activity. And superimposed upon this are storied layers of current value and interpretation, reduced to the abstraction of a single Historic Environment Framework layer. Although a somewhat nebulous concept, this HEF layer nonetheless has an aesthetic when represented visually, and also has significant societal impacts. This brief presentation complements the poster on display, where these themes are explored in a little more detail, and introduces the HEF layer as a curatorial tool of growing importance and widening practice.

Eloise Govier (University of Wales Trinity Saint David) – Plastic Earth

I propose to talk through the concept and evolution of the Plastic Earth artwork, and demonstrate how I have used the sculpture as a 'thinking tool' to explore multi-sensory engagement with the contemporary landscape. During the discussion I will highlight Ingold's work on 'mounds' and 'walking' (2008, 2013), the material agency of plastic, and the special relationship plastic has with water. I will conclude with a brief statement about plastic archaeology

Rose Ferraby (University of Exeter) - Stone Landscape

Screenprinting has allowed me to explore the layered nature of archaeological landscapes on paper. Archaeology is about peeling layers back in order to make sense of them. Screenprinting is about placing them back; choosing how much tone and emphasis to give each feature.

In ‘Stone Landscape’ I took marks and lines from a stone carving in Cumbria and slowly layered it up using earth tones. The change in colour and format lifts the small stone carving into a landscape scale. It reflects the idea that landscapes are not just out there, large and looming: they can also be found by looking in at small details and forms.

Sara Rich (Appalachian State University, USA/ Maritime Archaeology Trust) - Shipwreck Hauntography

Like ghosts in a flooded and forgotten storm cellar, shipwreck realities are so far removed from our own that they exist in a kind of ontological void, where the lack of a sense of presence leads to a lack of perceived being – in Derridian terms, a hauntology (his pun on ‘ontology’). In this respect, a hauntograph would address that phantasmal tension in space between public and private that bears directly on audience/artist/archaeologist interpretation, and it is this illusory place where the new project Shipwreck Hauntography focuses its efforts.

My first two attempts at creating hauntographs have as their subject matter the Yarmouth Roads Protected Shipwreck, where I have overseen excavations in 2015-2016. Lying in rather unruly waters, the Yarmouth Roads is an Early Modern Mediterranean merchant vessel located at a depth of -6m in the Solent Strait between the Isle of Wight and the south coast of mainland England. In using collage and transparency, I tried to negotiate the many layers of this shipwreck: its stratigraphy, centuries of deposition, decades of tidal erosion, seasons of excavation, and its countless unrecorded histories like palimpsests, neatly obscured from human access.

Shipwrecks are often understood, even by archaeologists who study them, as little more than dead ships. Shipwreck Hauntographs seek to explore, through archaeological and artistic processes, shipwrecks as liminal objects that are capable of negotiating those murky, fluid boundaries between past and present, presence and absence.

Marjolijn Kok (Bureau Archeologie en Toekomst, Netherlands) – Rockburn

Everything you see in the Rockburn Details drawings was there in these configurations, but it is not all there was. I made a conscious selection for a certain aesthetics, with big machine-like-objects isolated, and smaller tools in groups. I purposefully did not draw all the nails, fragments and stones. It might have been more accurate and scientific but it would make the drawings less easy to read.

Of course, I had the freedom to do so because it was not an official excavation, however, I think we should think more on how we portray things at all moments. Everything we do costs time and therefore it is a limited resource. Choices have to be made - do I put all my time into counting and measuring every single nail or do I put time into telling a visual narrative? Drawings have a long scientific traditions because they can emphasize things more selectively than photographs. In this time of interactive 3D visuals a simple drawing can be just as effective. Drawing is a conscious act of looking and we should use this skill to think about what we want to tell the audience. The drawings can be used to engage with the audience and once they are drawn in, a dialogue can begin.

Carlos Guarita (Falmouth Art School, Fine Art/Painting ) and Lucy Goodison (Independent Researcher) – Minoan Time / Site Lines

This contribution to the Sightations event reflects a collaboration between prehistoric Aegean archaeology and the stills camera used as an instrument that can combine scientific investigation with aesthetic concerns.

The collaboration involved a systematic series of experiments recording dawn alignments from the doorways of important Minoan buildings, alignments that had in the construction of the buildings been orchestrated to occur on specific dates of the year. It focused specifically on the ‘Mesara-type’ tombs broadly belonging to the 3rd millennium BC, and the Knossos palace ‘Throne Room’ later in the 2nd millennium BC. The results yielded new evidence about the role of the sun in Minoan religion; pointed towards significant dates in a possible ritual calendar; and identified sophisticated prehistoric architectural choices intended to exploit the dramatic/theatrical effects of dawn light in a pre-electric society.

They also produced spectacular images of the sunrise entering prehistoric buildings whose aesthetic is not ‘art for art’s sake’, but rather through its visual representation of archaeological material makes an original contribution to the construction of knowledge. They offer to the modern eye a sight that has perhaps not been witnessed since the Bronze Age; the photographic recording of the visual impact of the intersection of special time/date/sacred building with the dramatic first light offers insight into the somatic experience of a prehistoric people. The documentation of the tomb alignments also suggests a new paradigm for Minoan religion in the early stages of the Bronze Age: after decades of attempts to conjure enough evidence to construct narratives involving anthropomorphic deities, Minoan archaeology is invited to acknowledge such sensory experiences as part of a large body of material evidence for rituals focused rather on physical interaction with animals, plants, boulders, bones, mountains, celestial phenomena and other elements of the natural world.

Coralie Acheson (University of Birmingham) - #slowironbridge

As a tourist we interweave our own personal stories with the places we visit. When we visit historical sites, ‘heritage attractions’ as they are often called, our stories are layered onto the many that were already attached to that place. #SlowIronbridge is a project which reflects the ways in which heritage sites are experienced and represented by those who visit them. The most tangible manifestation of the installation is a slow film showing the progression of a walk through the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge. This is paralleled by an evolving interactive online representation of the film’s subject on social media which visitors are invited to add to themselves. The walk has been taken on new journeys, both real and imagined, and many others have added their reflections on what it makes them think and feel. As such it both reflects and mimics the ways in which tourists interact with heritage attractions and opens up new questions about what these interactions can mean. This short paper reflects on the stories the project has gathered, travelling through the journeys that this now historical and imagined walk has gone through and identifying the new questions that have emerged from it.

Alice Watterson (University of Dundee) and Tessa Poller (University of Glasgow) – SERF: designing digital engagements

One of the goals of the pilot digital resource for the SERF hillforts programme is to find a way to communicate the dynamic process of archaeological interpretation. Through the interface we have begun to explore representation of multiple interpretations by offering alternatives to the structures within the reconstructions themselves, and we want to develop this theme further. Representing the more ephemeral elements of the interpretive process is in itself a challenge. During the fieldwork we recorded active discussions at the trench-edge and captured interpretive sketches drawn during lively debates between the archaeologists. Presenting this material in a way which still retains the essence of this dynamic process while inviting the audience into the interpretive debate is problematic. Traditional modes of representation ask for visuals which embody a somewhat conclusive and didactic voice. How then might we use visualisation to better reflect the fluidity of the interpretive process and engage audiences more meaningfully with the ways in which the excavated evidence challenges archaeologists?

Lindsey Buster, Ian Armit, Rachael Kershaw, Adrian Evans, Tom Sparrow (University of Bradford) – Darkness Visible: 3D Modelling of the Sculptor’s Cave, NE Scotland

The Sculptor’s Cave lies on the south coast of the Moray Firth in NE Scotland. It is in an inaccessible location, which requires scaling steep sandstone cliffs and/or a long walk along a boulder strewn beach. Furthermore, the bay in which it lies is cut-off for two hours each side of high tide. Despite, and more likely because, of its marginal location, the Sculptor’s Cave has been a draw for people for millennia. In the Late Bronze Age the site was used for complex and protracted funerary rites, whilst in the Roman Iron, a group of at least five individuals were decapitated inside the cave. Sometime around the sixth century, a series of enigmatic Pictish symbols were carved in the entrance passages; an act which may have served to symbolically ‘seal off’ the cave from future use.

The biography of the Sculptor’s Cave is long and complex. But how to capture the dynamism of such a place, where time and place intersect? Caves are unique archaeological sites, in that they occupy a conceptual space between the built and the subterranean, the natural and the cultural. Digital capture technology, particularly 3D scanning, is one way in which we can create (or arguably re-create) these dynamic, often inaccessible, spaces in new and versatile ways. This paper will outline some of the scanning technologies used, at various scales, in the analysis, interpretation, presentation and management of this enigmatic site.

Lara Band (Museum of London Archaeology, CITiZAN) and David Webb (Independent Producer) - An imaginary tour of Orkney from Elsewhere, and Elsewhere from Orkney

The collaborative film/installation An imaginary tour of Orkney from Elsewhere, and Elsewhere from Orkney, showing in the Sightations Exhibition, was put together following participation in Map Orkney Month in 2015, Elsewhere being London. Our installation juxtaposes the two tours of the same place, one imaginary and one real. The act of mapping Orkney in London led us to places we would not normally go and to a consideration of differences and similarities between the parallel destinations; remapping in Orkney allowed for a re-examination of these ideas. The installation itself opens the way for further exploration of themes including as use, mass, materials, space, place, sound and experience.

This paper looks briefly at the reasoning behind the method of mapping and presentation, the ideas it engendered and where it might go in the future.

Richard Benjamin Allen (University of Oxford) – An Ode to Hiort

An Ode to Hiort is a walking simulator that tells the story of a survivor of a crashed Wellington Bomber MKVIII during 1943 on an island based upon the real St.Kilda in the outer Hebrides. The game started off life as a learning exercise to get to grips with the various work flows, hardware and software required to create a virtual environment using real world data and was initially inspired by the work of the Scottish Ten group at Historical Scotland. It has since then evolved into something more and seeks to not only tell an interesting story but to demonstrate what can be done “on a shoestring” using laser scanning, photogrammetry, open sourced/free software and enough time. In this talk I will briefly take you through the journey so far, the technology involved, the people that have contributed and about future developments and direction.

Jo Dacombe (University of Leicester) – The Reliquary Project

The Reliquary Project is the culmination of artist Jo Dacombe’s residency within the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, which began in September 2014.

Dacombe worked within the Bone Laboratory, examining themes and ideas inspired by animal bones and skeletons, exploring the subject matter she encountered through the process of making art. Dacombe will discuss the themes behind The Reliquary Project works and threads that developed through different pieces, how themes informed the use of media and how the media informed the thinking process. The range of ideas she explored in a visual way included bones as material, bones as landscape, ways of “seeing” with technology, notions of mythology and sacredness, and how ways of displaying change how we value objects.

Christopher McHugh (University of Sunderland) – Visualising Complex Material Trajectories through Creative Ceramic Practice

Influenced by recent archaeological approaches to the contemporary past, I regard my creative practice as a proactive intervention in which otherwise unconstituted narratives of person-object interaction are materialised through the creation of enduring ceramic art objects. My work exploits the archival potential of fired clay, usually incorporating digital photographic imagery as surface decoration.

While not intended as direct visualisations of specific artefacts, my artworks often attempt to represent the complex material trajectories of particular museum collections or assemblages through a synthesis of form and contextual information. By constituting new things, this process may contribute to, as well as visualise, the archaeological record.

This will be illustrated by reference to two bodies of recent ceramic work.

The George Brown Series of porcelain vessels was made in response to the George Brown Collection of Oceanic material culture at the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan. Described as one of the most mobile collections in the world, my work attempts to represent something of this contested and convoluted history. The Setomonogatari series was made during and since an art residency in the traditional pottery community of Seto, Japan. This work explores the site’s changing materiality through a process of collage and synthesis. Abandoned plaster moulds have been reanimated through reuse, while discarded ceramic objects are repurposed and integrated into the works. These act as reminders of the tacit and often undervalued stories of person-object interaction and labour that lead to the formation of material culture.

Ken Takahashi (Yokohama History Museum, Japan) – Dogu-mime (Performing Art) [REPEAT]

Dogu are clay figurines of the Jomon period (ca.16000-2400 calBP) which exaggerate the human image. The performance of dogu-mime entertains the audience by bringing dogu back to life using the human body. This is an attempt to visualize the ideas of the Jomon people, who made the dogu figurines, in an entertaining way. The performer is not only an archaeologist but also a mime (stage name: Hakucho- kyodai), who has been performing this dogu-mime on the streets, stages, and at museums in Japan, since 2010.

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