3-D modelling of Kilmartin rock art
Computer age recreates prehistoric sites in search of answers to carvings mystery
From Scotsman.com's Heritage News
THREE-dimensional computer images of life 5,000 years ago are being created to help archaeologists decipher mysterious rock markings at the site of Scotland?s ancient capital. The virtual-reality reconstruction of hundreds of locations around Kilmartin in Argyll is expected to shed new light on the so-far unexplained "cup and ring" carvings. The project, by Warwick University, is also likely to improve knowledge of key sites such as Dunadd, a hill fort which was the Scots? capital from the 6th to 9th centuries. Standing stones, cairns, stone circles, Celtic crosses and gravestones in the area, which is regarded as Scotland?s richest surviving ancient landscape, are also among nearly 300 ancient monuments to be included.
Warwick University?s e-lab 3D visualisation group is constructing the images using information from past excavations, which include pollen samples that show the extent of past tree cover.
The pollen, recovered by Stirling University researchers, has shown the area would have been covered by hundreds of oaks.
The e-lab hopes the reconstructions will create the most comprehensive picture yet of the area?s past, enabling scientists to make new discoveries by comparing different images.
The virtual reconstructions place the engravings in the wider context of the landscape to show how the art related to its immediate surroundings thousands of years ago. They also show how the vegetation and landscape has changed through time.
The images are also being used to create computer games to enable people to better visualise what the area would have looked like.
Martin Blazeby, a multimedia designer at the e-lab, said: "We are digitising the information that is already there. When we have done that, archaeologists will be able to check the images for similarities and differences. "We do not know what the cup and ring markings were for, but they could be a type of code or descriptions of the constellations. The virtual reality software has been used in computer games to entertain, but is now emerging as a serious tool for transforming how we learn about our history. This new kit in the tool bag of museum displays has massive potential to bring Scotland?s ancient heritage back to life."
Dunadd was established by Scots who emigrated from Ireland, and was once the centre of the long-lost Kingdom of Dalriada.
The Scots went on to take over south-eastern Scotland from the Picts in the 9th century. The hilltop fort at Dunadd, north of Lochgilphead, is where the Stone of Destiny is believed to have lain before being removed to Scone in Perthshire.
The computer game has used the results of excavations of the site to help viewers experience its panoramic outlook and navigate the area, following the progress of its inhabitants. Previous research by Dr Ewan Campbell of Glasgow University has shown that Scottish kings of that era enjoyed a sophisticated lifestyle from the fruits of international trade, importing herbs and expensive clothing dyes.
Colin Schafer, the director of Kilmartin House Museum, where the reconstructions will be displayed, said: "This project interprets ancient sites by analysing their landscape situation and builds on work reconstructing the vegetation history at rock art sites, and shows how it influenced site location.
"The computer graphics are already turning the heads of academics, historians, architects, teachers and pupils."
Wednesday, 30th April 2003
Posted by Rhiannon
1st May 2003ce
Edited 9th May 2003ce