Robert Peter BARRATT
(Department of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK)

Keywords: alternative models, 3d reconstruction, visualisation, metadata and paradata

3D reconstruction is widely used today in archaeology, yet its methodology has not entirely been accepted within traditional practices.
Partially due to a lack of standards and theoretical support, partially due to a mistrust for new technology, key issues in the handling of 3D data are yet to be resolved. This is especially true with the management of inaccuracy within 3D models. The use of metadata and paradata have minimised concerns, but there is yet to be clarity on the preferred method of displaying uncertainty.
One solution proposed has been the creation of alternative models, displaying conflicting theories within the 3D reconstructions.
Here we discuss the advantages and flaws of this technique, ultimately demonstrating its limitations and proposing a more theoretical approach to the issue.
Creating alternative models of conflicting hypotheses can be of great use in specific cases, especially when the interpretation of an archaeological site is unsure. But it is not a general solution to the problem of uncertainty. Limited publishing space and a need to propose a clear narrative to the public seriously hinder the use of alternative models. Additionally, technical limitations in the modelling process can lead to prolonged reconstruction times. As a response we propose the establishment of solid guidelines and the investigation of the theoretical background of 3D reconstruction to align this methodology with traditional practices.
Demonstrating the similarities between new and old practices will minimise issues of uncertainty and help establish the validity of 3D reconstruction.
This paper is part of a process of assessment and analysis of the 3D method, in an attempt to create a solid philosophical background that can withstand current criticism and ultimately result in a wider use of high quality 3D reconstructions in archaeology.

Relevance for the conference: The paper is on issues at the core of Visualisation and Virtual Heritage.
Relevance for the session: The paper deals with the theoretical background of 3D reconstruction, focusing on the best way to display inaccuracies in 3D data.
Innovation: The paper analyses a much discussed technique with the intention of demonstrating its limitations and proposing an alternative.

  • The topic has not been discussed in these terms, but many authors have touched upon the subject. Examples include Mathur 1997; The Guardian 1999; Huggett and Guo-Yuan 2000; Lock 2003; Alusik et al. 2011