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Wonderful Things? A Consideration of 3D Modelling of Objects in Material Culture Research

Barry Molloy
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  • UCD School of Archaeology and UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, University College Dublin, Ireland
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/ Marina Milić
Published Online: 2018-04-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2018-0006


The role of 3D modelling in archaeology is increasing exponentially, from fieldwork to architecture to material culture studies. For the study of archaeological objects the roles of digital and print models for public engagement has been much considered in recent literature. For model makers, focus has typically been placed on exceptional and visually striking objects with inherent appeal. In contrast, this paper explores some of the potential roles for 3D digital models for routine artefact research and publication. Particular emphasis is placed on the challenges this technology raises for archaeological theory and practice. Following a consideration of how 3D models relate to established illustration and photographic traditions, the paper evaluates some of the unique features of 3D models, focussing on both positive and negative aspects of these. This is followed by a discussion of the role of potential research connections between digital and craft models in experimental research. Our overall objective is to emphasise a need to engage with the ways in which this gradual development has begun to change aspects of longestablished workflows. In turn, the increasing use of this technology is argued to have wider ramifications for the development of archaeology, and material culture studies in particular, as a discipline that requires reflection.

Keywords: Material culture studies; 3D modelling; replicas; experimental archaeology


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About the article

Received: 2017-10-12

Accepted: 2018-03-06

Published Online: 2018-04-03

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 97–113, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2018-0006.

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© 2018. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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