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Modelling Physical and Digital Replication: Bridging the Gap Between Experimentation and Experience

Andrea Dolfini
  • Corresponding author
  • Newcastle University, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Armstrong Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom
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  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Rob Collins
  • Newcastle University, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Armstrong Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom
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  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-03-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2018-0002


The replication of objects lies at the heart of material culture research in archaeology. In particular, replication plays a key role in a number of core activities in our discipline including teaching, research, and public engagement. Despite its being fundamental to the archaeological process, however, replication comes across as an under-theorised field of artefact research. The problem is compounded by the recent development of digital technologies, which add a new layer of challenges as well as opportunities to the long-established practice of making and using physical copies of objects. The paper discusses a number of issues with artefact replication including aims, design, and methodology, from the standpoint of two research projects currently coordinated by the authors: the Bronze Age Combat project, which explores prehistoric fighting techniques through field experiments and wear analysis (Dolfini); and the NU Digital Heritage project, which centres upon the digital capture and modelling of Roman material culture from Hadrian’s Wall (Collins). Both projects have actively created replicas in physical or digital media, and direct comparison of the two projects provide a number of useful lessons regarding the role, uses, and limits of artefact replication in archaeology. Bronze Age Combat project: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/cias/research/bronzeagecombat/ NU Digital Heritage project: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/cias/research/nudigitalheritage/

Keywords: Object replication; experimental archaeology; experience; digital technologies; Bronze Age; Roman


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About the article

Received: 2017-05-03

Accepted: 2017-08-21

Published Online: 2018-03-16

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 36–49, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2018-0002.

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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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