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An evaluation of the visualisation and interpretive potential of applying GIS data processing techniques to 3D rock art data

Journal article
Authors Christian Horn
Derek Pitman
Richard Potter
Published in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume 27
ISSN 2352-409X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Keywords 3D data, Digital elevation models, GIS, Local relief modelling, Rock art, Visualisation
Subject categories Archaeology


Rock art provides a tangible visual link to past communities and has significant value in building our understanding of prehistoric societies. Its recording and interpretation has long provided a window to intangible aspects of society, such as belief systems and folk narratives. Petroglyphic rock art has traditionally been recorded through simple rubbing, or frottage, and the majority of interpretations and narratives to date have been based on this work. Recently, three-dimensional capture techniques have become readily available and they replace traditional approaches to rock art recording. These techniques are valuable, but the data-heavy outputs lack the interpretive clarity of traditional methods. This paper explores these issues through a novel approach that employs topographic landscape analysis techniques, initially developed for LiDAR processing, to produce clear images that have the precision and dimensional accuracy of 3D captured data, but the visual clarity of traditional methods. Specifically, this paper outlines an approach based on local relief modelling (a technique that highlights subtle topographic features) and explores its efficacy through case studies of Bronze Age Scandinavian petroglyphs. This method was developed to aid the analysis of 3D models and to improve visualising the results based on such investigations. This work offers a significant impact on rock art studies as it facilitates the identification of previously unidentified motifs, and allows a clearer sense of petroglyphic world views. The technique can be applied to models of other archaeological surfaces.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-01-28