Archival Archaeology in Action

Timothy SENIOR | Edward TRIPLETT
(Duke University, Durham, USA)

Keywords: Digital Reconstruction, Archival Archaeology, 3D GIS

Lying near the heart of Bremen, the St. Katharinen district is bounded by two of the city’s principal medieval, and now modern, streets. As one of the earliest documented structures on the site, the Dominican monastery of St. Katharinen (founded 1225) has come to define much of the urban fabric of the district. A substantial building complex, it served a variety of scholarly, commercial, military and domestic roles following the Reformation, not least housing the city Armoury, State library and the city’s first university. Subject to periods of extensive redevelopment, much of the complex was finally lost to the bombing raids of the Second World War and a traffic-widening scheme of the 1970s. Only a fragment now remains of the original claustral buildings, a multi-story car park erected on piloti rising overhead.
During its redevelopment, the site was cleared without archaeological investigation. Further, little scholarly research been conducted on the site to date. As such, any attempt to reconstruct the appearance of St Katharinen is now an act of inference: a process of archival archaeology. As part of ongoing work, we will present a new understanding of St Katharinen and the site’s urban transformation across the centuries, one that draws together laser scanning and Lidar data with the most extensive body of construction, land registry, visual and textual data yet assembled.
3D GIS makes it possible for a variety of 2D and 3D data formats emerging from such work to be oriented within a single coordinate system, an important part of conjectural reconstruction activities. Such work, however, remains largely bound to desktop environments. The authors will propose how web-streaming 3D GIS tools such as Cesium may enable new forms of dissemination that can open research to a wider audience and capture the decisions lying behind reconstruction work.

In its use of diverse data sources, the project creates a platform to test 3D GIS dissemination tools that are only now beginning to emerge commercially.