5.2.6 Logistical issues of digital recording in remote landscapes

The use of laser scanning in a relatively remote location was justified earlier as it permits the visualisation and interpretation of rock art back in the comfort of the office. Whereas certain interpretative issues were considered at the start of this article, we end with a brief assessment of some rather more mundane logistical issues.

The decision to embark upon laser scanning in remote landscapes where there is no guaranteed electricity supply does require careful consideration. Essentially, one needs to weigh the scientific returns from such a logistical and financial investment vis à vis logistically less demanding methods that yield lower resolution data, such as photogrammetry. Laser scanning equipment is essentially designed for use in places with easy access to electricity - this project required a team of four people each carrying 30kg of kit for over three hours up a mountain, including a 20kg car battery. We would argue that despite these logistical constraints, this effort was justified, partly owing to the originality of the site, but also because of the manner in which these models have facilitated the investigation, interpretation and representation of the site. While enhanced digital photographs provide excellent images that have allowed us to study the motifs in detail, the Artec white-light scan complements these and, despite the fact that these images yield no more graphical information than enhanced digital photos, the scan does constitute an extremely accurate model of the current state of the artwork.

Modern digital methods, including laser scanning, colour enhancement, and even the integration of two and three dimensional images (Domingo et al. 2013), provide tools for the analysis and dissemination of our sites via accessible media, often through the Web, and monitors in exhibition spaces. However, such representations can hide complexities - many digital reconstructions are unsurprisingly devoid of people (McCoy and Ladefoged 2009, 266), and we need to consider mechanisms for remedying this problem. Since the site's discovery, a handful of people (possibly 100 at the most) have visited the site. Its location – literally off the beaten track – constitutes its main protection. It is hoped that this publication, along with other 'orthodox' paper-based publications, and a section in the new Ecrins National Park visitor centre at Vallouise will provide researchers and the public with a clear and accurate impression of the site, and those who do want to experience the site in its landscape will do so as a part of arranged visits with park wardens and official mountain guides.