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The University of Southampton
TAG 2016 Southampton

S5. Digital Visualisation beyond the Image: Archaeological Visualisation Making in Practice

Session organizers:

Gareth Beale (University of York, and Paul Reilly (University of Southampton,

Session abstract:

The emergence of digital visualisation and representation has led to some of the most significant developments in archaeological practice of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. While a great deal has been written about digital visualisations, very little has been written about the way in which they are produced. This session constitutes an exploration of the diverse and often highly personal stories of practice which constitute digital visualisation making. We will examine the craft of digital visualisation making in its broadest sense, allowing for wider and more nuanced connotations (e.g. imagination and conceptualisation) and for other mechanisms for receiving impressions or conceiving representations of things, in other words multi-modalities of perception including haptic, sonic and olfactory stimuli. We invite contributions which question the passive and neutral character of the visualisation maker and which draw attention to human variability in perception. We are also keen to include explorations of teaching, learning and translation.

Contributions from across the spectrum of archaeological visualisation making are encouraged including practitioners in “artistic”, “scientific” and “interpretative” styles. We also wish to highlight the importance of ‘non-expert’ digital visualisation making and the role of digital visualisation in everyday archaeological discourse.

Contributor abstracts:

Extended Practice and Digital Representations

Jeremy Huggett (Archaeology, University of Glasgow)

When we consider the relationship between aspects of archaeological practice and the digital tools we increasingly incorporate within our practice, our focus is – inevitably – on the questions, applications, and results. Consequently, our reflective approach to the digital is frequently limited to the relatively mundane: what it offers, what it delivers, what it costs. But the relationship between practice and the digital extends far beyond this. In a very real sense, the digital becomes a part of extended practice: the digital shares in the practice, it takes on part of the practice in its own right, it can even undertake the practice absent the archaeologist. What are the implications of this for our approaches to the visualisations, representations, constructions, explorations, conceptualisations that we create in our digital environments? 

Different expressions of the same mode: apprehending the world through practice, and making a mark

Stefan Gant (Fine Art, University of Northampton) and Paul Reilly (Archaeology, University of Southampton)

In this paper we discuss pertinent features of shared experience at the excavations of an Iron Age Hillfort at Bodfari, North Wales, referencing artist, archaeologist and examples of seminal art works and archaeological records resulting through the collaboration. We explore ways along which archaeological and artistic practices of improvisation become entangled and productive through their different modes of mark making. We contend that marks and memories of artist and archaeologist alike intra-actively emerge through the object of study, the tools of exploration, and the practitioners themselves, when they are enmeshed in the cross-modally bound activities of remote sensing, surveying, mattocking, troweling, drawing, photographing, videoing, sound recording, and so on. These marks represent the signatures of the often anonymous practitioners, the voice of the deposits as well as the imprint of the tools, and their interplay creates a multi-threaded narrative documenting their modes of intra-action, in short their practices. They occupy the conceptual space of paradata, and in the process of saturating the interstices of cognitive artefacts they lend probity to their translations in both art form and archive.

Geophysics: creativity and the archaeological imagination

Rose Ferraby (Geography, University of Exeter)

This paper explores archaeology as a creative practice by engaging specifically with the processes and visuals of geophysics. An area of archaeology considered highly scientific, a different way of looking reveals geophysics to be a poetic form of landscape study. The processes used to collect, alter, interpret and visualize the data are creative acts that have parallels with more easily recognizable arts practices such as painting, drawing or photography. The paper explores the ideas behind ways of seeing, the archaeological imagination, technologies and process. The section that follows explores the different elements of work and the ways of seeing and thinking they inspire. The paper ends by showcasing how other arts practices can give alternative perspectives on geophysics and how these can in turn influence fine art.

Artefact Life History: Digital intervention, conceptualisation and the notion of recycling in the communication of archaeology through digital craft practice

Helen Marton (Contemporary Crafts, Falmouth University)

An object’s biography is dictated by the journey it has taken and though the myriad interactions it undertakes. Over time, raw materials can be perpetually transformed through human contact and varied technologies. I explore the post depositional life of the artefact and how through site-specific knowledge, conceptualisation and digital intervention, I engage with a new dimension to the object biography.

Using traditional and digital tools and technologies I produce concept led works, which aim to communicate archaeology and renegotiate the artefact life history. Key concepts here include: Transdisciplinarity, archaeology, object biography, artefact life history, digital craft, digital archaeology, material culture, making, narrative works, conceptual craft, practice as research.

Virtual Archaeology: Understanding the Past through a virtual reality?

Blandina Cristina Stöhr (Institue Of Geographical Sciences/ Physical Geography, Freie Universität, Berlin)

An important question in archaeological work is the presentation of data used in the creation of a ‘model’. I ask how and in what ways does virtual reconstruction change or influence our understanding of archaeological sites? I have analysed the spatial environment/character of the Late Bronze Age settlement of Corneşti-Iarcuri through both analytical (Viewshedanalyses of the area by using ArcGIS and Cinema4D) and visual means (3dmodelling and reconstructions using PhotoScan and Cinema4D). My research question was how to examine the function of the construction on different levels: human space perception (visibility) as well as an objective look at the construction itself. The study was carried out employing 3d data in three different spatial resolutions: SRTM-data; LiDAR-Scan and Photogrammetry. 

Since the architectural knowledge of the Corneşti wall-system is still relatively limited; the reconstructions of the 3d wall and tower presented does not only rely on the data from the archaeological excavations of the site – it also contains fictive elements.

This presentation is based on the problem-solving and decision-making elements required while working with 3d-technology from a landscape-archaeological viewpoint. I focus on the personal decisions I made while solving this task.

Auralisation making in practice; a very visual undertaking?

Catriona Cooper (Allen Archaeology Limited)

The use of auralisation and the use of acoustical modelling are starting to influence archaeological practice; opening up questions about the auditory and multisensory experience of the past. The method for creating an acoustical model of a building is comparable to the method for producing a three dimension model. Through the process of visualisation creation we naturally critique and amend based on what we are seeing. An auralisation is assessed on what it sounds like; does it sound right, appropriate for the space? However, this is often just one step in the process. A significant amount of the assessment is undertaken based on our initial, visual, perception of the model, and the visual perception of the results.

This presentation aims to question the practice of making an auralization. Is our reliance on the visual elements of the model and results based on our reliance, or our prioritisation of the visual over the other senses? Or is based on our unwillingness to engage with the creative elements inherently involved with the production of visualisations and representations which still apply in the production of auralisations?

Adapting to museum ecologies: The art of 3D digital replicas and prints in museum context

Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge)

When I wrote the proposal for my Marie Curie project, DIGIFACT, one of the main objectives was the "Creation of a new methodological paradigm for 3D reproduction of artefacts". My main research aim was to build up a coherent 3D recording methodology for artefacts. I intended to compare the most relevant 3D techniques in order to see which were the most effective for the reproduction of artefacts and why. While working at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and later at the British Museum, I realised that the title of my objective was quite inappropriate, as it did not reflect how museum policies would affect the practice of digitally replicating artefacts.

This short presentation will discuss challenges encountered during the 3D recording phase of DIGIFACT. It will also discuss what it means to develop a coherent workflow that involves different stakeholders, including private firms working on 3D printing.

The strange case of Dame Mary May's tomb: The performative value of Reflectance Transformation Imaging and its use in deciphering the visual and biographical evidence of a late 17th century portrait effigy

Jude Jones (Archaeology, University of Southampton) and Nicole Smith (Centre for Digital Heritage, University of York)

A Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) project carried out in 2013 in the parish church of St Nicholas. Mid-Lavant, West Sussex by Gareth Beale, Jude Jones, Yvonne Marshall and Nicole Smith has led to a number of exploratory papers, the last of which is to be published in a collected edition on Digital Heritage issues in Internet Archaeology (2017 forthcoming). For Jude Jones and Nicole Smith the exercise, which centred on investigating the sculptural treatment of a late 17th century effigial sculpture of Dame Mary May by the sculptor John Bushnell, revealed a great deal of detailed information concerning past and present bodily and emotional attitudes to the effigy and its active role in eliciting them. The RTI exercise itself also prompted a series of theoretical questions emerging from the process of analysing composite 3D images of this kind. Having briefly examined the visual and visceral impact of this tomb we then discuss these broader questions

VISUALISATION, EXPERIENCE, AND QUANTIFICATION: A view from the Miletus-Didyma sacred way

Michael Loy (University of Cambridge)

Phenomenology has been slated as an over-subjective methodology which relies too heavily on the interpretation of the individual. At the other end of the spectrum, hard ‘scientific’ data is often criticised for being overly objective, and for distancing itself too far from the landscape to which it pertains. In order to reconstruct a more effective view of ancient landscapes, we need to employ a mixture of both techniques. A methodology is required which combines the strengths of both subjective and objective data in light of their limitations. This paper considers the case study of the sacred way between Miletus and Didyma on the Aegean coast of Turkey. The Archaic-Roman route was regarded as a ‘processional road’ which connected the ancient city of Miletus to the oracular sanctuary of Didymaion Apollo. Currently under investigation by an international research project (‘Project Panormos’), the sacred way invites questions about how particular cultural meanings were attached to a specific landscape, and as a result how the economic role of and routes through the landscape chan`ged across time. By looking at the first two years’ worth of landscape data and at the experiences of hiking through the landscape, this paper addresses the combination of subjective and objective datasets in answering such questions. The idea of ‘visualisation’ as a middle-road between experience and quantification is proposed, which could act as a useful framework within the arsenal of landscape archaeology.


The Queer and the Digital: Critical making, praxis and play in digital archaeology

Colleen Morgan (Centre for Digital Heritage, University of York)

Visual archaeological depictions have long reified heteronormative representations of the past. Feminist critiques have destabilized the representation of people in the past (Berman 1999; Gifford-Gonzalez 1993; Moser 1992) and queer theory in archaeology has pushed this even further, finding "silences" in heteronormative depictions of families and activities (Dawson 2007) and identity and status in the past (Blackmore 2011). Though experimental visualization is increasingly available through the growing accessibility of creation and publication through digital tools, current depictions of archaeological practice and the past have remained largely static. People are largely absent from digital reconstructions of the past, and when they are present they are an afterthought. This is similar to depictions of current archaeological practice. There is a corresponding absence of discussion of digital tools for emancipatory practice in feminist and queer archaeologies (but see Joyce and Tringham 2007 and Morgan and Eve 2012). In this paper I discuss the potential for an expressive, queer digital archaeology that incorporates critical making, praxis and play.

Seeing History through a SCHARPer Lens; exploring the Wemyss Caves through community film making

Tanya Freke (The SCAPE Trust & University of St Andrews)

Since 2012, SCAPE has worked with citizen scientists and local community volunteers on the Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP), a four year project designed to record and interpret archaeological sites around Scotland’s dynamic coastline. One project was undertaken at the Wemyss Caves, home to the largest concentration of Pictish carvings in Scotland. Damaging coastal processes, coupled with social deprivation in this former mining village, are leading to neglect and increasingly threaten the site. Local action group, Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (SWACS), have collaborated with SCAPE on a digital recording project, making 3D models of the coastline and carvings and capturing the rich and vibrant social history of the caves. One collaborative technique employed harnessed the SCHARP team’s extensive film production knowledge to create a series of short films, one for each cave, as part of the wider recording project. 

This paper will discuss the making of these films, showing how the partnership chose the stories to exemplify the distinct history of each cave. It will detail how the films were produced, highlighting the key role of the local community, who provided content, took acting roles and sourced materials. The talk will conclude with a showing of one of the short films, ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’. This stars many members of SWACS and details the history of antiquarian recording at the caves, reinforcing a long tradition of research at an asset which is now in danger of being lost.

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