A Study of Archaeological Knowledge Content for Virtual Reconstruction

Maurice Murphy, Virtual Building Lab, Sara Pavia, Trinity College Dublin, Simona Scandura, University Federico II of Naples, Eimear Meegan, Virtual Building Lab, Anthony Corns, Discovery Programme Ireland, Shane Lenihan, OPW and Antonella DiLuggo, University Federico II of Naples

Keywords: archaeological knowledge, digital reconstruction, semantic attributes

Problem statement and research questions

How do archaeologists, historians and other specialists create and use knowledge for digital reconstruction of architectural and archaeological heritage sites.

  1. How do we assess and identify related knowledge and measure archaeologist’s approaches, using an ethnographic methodology
  2. What are key digital reconstruction approaches for modelling architecture and archaeology?
  3. How is archaeological knowledge and information created and used for digital reconstruction?
  4. How is knowledge and information stored and accessed?
  5. How is knowledge and information represented in objects within Virtual Environments?



The issues concerning, how archaeological knowledge and information is created and usedcollectively with historic data and material collections arepertinent for digital reconstruction of architectural and archaeological cultural heritage sites. Sources for archaeological data and historic material collections underpin the development of knowledge for enhancing virtual models. The virtual replication of archaeological and architectural heritage structures is enhanced with the addition of knowledge and information content as semantic attributes. This then moves digital objects from static representations to dynamic, interactive and ‘smart’ models. The resultant Smart Model can then be used for information and knowledge sharing as a multi-disciplinary and evolving system.

Methods used in the study

Method1. Ethnographic Surveys and Questionnaires

Addressing the research question, how to assess and identify related knowledge – measure archaeologist’s approaches, using an ethnographic methodology

The Definition of knowledge in the context of archaeological practices is accomplished through reviewing and researching sources related to surviving artefacts, structures, environments in addition to field recording. An ethnographic understanding of exactly how archaeological knowledge and information is created and used will be presented in this paper. A framework for knowledge creation will be developed based on interviews and questionnaires with archaeologists and other experts in order to collect their understanding. End user scenarios will be implemented for understanding and predicting how virtual models can be employed to disseminate attributed knowledge content in the context of Virtual Historic Structures and Environments.

Method2.Case Studies

The results of two digital reconstruction case studies will be presented in this paperresolving the research questions:

What are key digital reconstruction approaches for modelling architecture and archaeology?

How is archaeological knowledge and information created and used for digital reconstruction?

Case Study1 – Digital Reconstruction Of The Early Irish Christian And Medieval Ecclesiastical Complex At Kilmalkedar (CillMaolcethair), Dingle Co Kerry

The first case study is the digital reconstruction of the Early Irish Christian and Medieval ecclesiastical complex at Kilmalkedar (CillMaolcethair), Dingle Co Kerry. The early Christian and medieval site at Kilmalkedarcomprisesof an existing church, a 12th Century Romanesque building and thepre-Romanesque monastery of Kilmalkedarwhich was founded in the 7th Century by St Maolcethair. The digital photogrammetric surveys in the left and centre below illustrate the front elevation showing the Romanesque carved sandstone door-case. The terrestrial laser scan survey of part of the early Christian site is illustrated on the far right of the figure below.

The sources ofarchaeological data and historic material collections concerning the knowledge input for creating the virtual models are based a combination of the surviving artefacts, historic manuscripts and the research and inference of historians and archaeologists. The authenticity and accuracy for digital reconstruction is initially based the virtual replication of the existing artefact and structure and this then relates to converting the scan and photogrammetric data to solid 3D models. There are two difficulties with digital reconstruction relating to this site, the first is theabsence of archaeological data and historic material collections and secondly the complexity to replicate accurately the complex geometries and shapes within the composition the building.

Case Study2– Collins Barracks Dublin

Originally a military barracks Collins Barracks is the home of the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History. Originally part of the city’s Norse and Viking heritage from the eleventh century the area still has Norse-influenced street names still visible today include Viking Road, Oxmantown Road, and Sitric Road.The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was gifted the site – then known as the ‘Palace Gardens’ in 1665 and later the site was sold to Queen Anne in 1703, for the purpose of developing a barracks. Thomas Burgh, a military engineer was responsible for the initial construction between 1704 and 1710.

There are a wide variety of historic data sources for Collins Barracks in contrast to thearchaeological data and historic material collections for digital reconstruction in the first case study. This in turn reduces the conjecture which the availability of tangible evidence for digital reconstruction.

The range of buildings which make up Collins Barracks are classical conforming to the adaption of Renaissance Architectural styles spreading from main land Europe through Great Britain and only arriving in Ireland in the 18th century when Collins Barracks was constructed. The workflow design for creating the virtual model of Collins barracks is based on classical architectural rules which can be applied for informing computer arranged shape grammars which are transformed from primitive to complex shapes. These shapes as 3D objects are then arranged within a virtual 3D environment to fit the form of historic structures or sites.


Findings – Recommendations

How is knowledge and information stored and accessed?

How is knowledge and information represented in objects within Virtual Environments?

The combination of digital recording, modelling and data management systems enable the interaction with complex, interlinked three-dimensional structures containing rich and diverse underlying data. End users can encompass architectural and engineering conservation, education and research, in addition to public engagement and cultural tourism. It is essential to incorporate within a design framework international principles concerning authenticity, integrity and philosophical approaches such as those promoted in ICOMOS Charters and UNESCO Recommendations.Digital data curationand dissemination involves maintaining, preserving, interpretation and adding value to information, knowledge, material and objects. This includes activities related to organisation, the annotation of data and systems to ensure survival of data collected from various sources. Quality systems ensure that content is authentic, of undisputed origin and genuine. Figure 4, outlines the information flow for Virtual Historic Dublin.A management system safeguards lasting value and lessens the risk of digital obsolescence.

Figure 4: System Architecture for Archival and Storage Repository

Open repositories ensure that curated data not only survives but is shared with wider communities for their use and enhancement avoiding duplication of effort. The initial workflow for this model starts with the capture of data followed by its classification and organisation. The organised data is then enriched with semantic attributes from other sources and stored within a data base or repository allowing access for various end user scenarios. The entire work flow is continuously updated and improved through a continuing conceptualisation, planning and evaluation process and managed to ensure quality and survival of data.


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