Computer-Generated 3D-Visualisations in Archaeology

Between added value and deception

Joyce Wittur


This study is primarily concerned with computer-generated reconstruction models of architecture. It offers a collection of possible methodologies for dealing with individual problems concerning visualisation aims and highlights methods of adding value tovirtual models in archaeology. Several avenues of enquiry are therefore explored, such as: What use have virtual models in archaeology?; How are they perceived?; Who is the intended audience?; Which applied ethical issues exist?; How can ethical awareness lead to added value? How are these models created? There is no easy answer to any of these but this work approaches the issues through a series of projects. These are international, but exhibit a European focus, which is also mirrored by the three casestudies. The three case studies were selected because of their differences but they also have two properties in common: they were all begun at approximately the same time (2001) and they all pay attention to ethical issues. Otherwise an effort was made to find projects which were produced and concerning sites in three different countries: Casa del Centenario in Pompeii (Italy), Ename (Belgium) and Avebury (U.K.). The projects are concerned with architecture from three different periods, i.e. a Roman house, a medieval settlement (with the focus on St. Lawrence’s church) and a Neolithic monument complex. The projects also had different aims: while the Casa del Centenario was primarily intended as a museum application and as a visualisation tool for the restorers, in the Ename 974 project the reconstructions were to illustrate the work and interpretation in progress for the local population while the church was closed due to excavation and building research. The model of Avebury was designed for research purposes and not intended for public display. So far, no comprehensive synopsis of different approaches with a critical stance on computer-generated visualisations has ever been attempted and this work provides a detailed and stimulating overview and analysis and serves as a foundation for further research.