4.2 Digital modelling applied to phenomenological research

It is hoped that this article has demonstrated the value of using both GIS and VR in understanding cultural aspects of past landscapes. The phenomenological approach requires one to view the landscape from within but this can be difficult when the landscape has changed so much over several thousand years, as is shown by the criticisms (Roughley and Shell 2004; Fleming 1999) of Tilley's (1994) examples of the Dorset cursus and Black Mountains long barrows. By digitally recreating rather than merely imagining the landscape one not only creates a more complete model of the landscape but also produces a number of unexpected discoveries; for instance, several views came as a surprise to the author when first seen: the resemblance between the approaches to the palisade enclosures and Avebury henge or the way that barrows framed both the Longstones Cove and Windmill Hill.

But that is not to say that the models created are perfect – far from it, they rely on the same academic rigour and approaches as any archaeological work and can only be as good as the evidence that is used to create them. Furthermore, the digital models do not excuse the archaeologist from experiencing the real landscape and monuments in person. There is a circular relationship between fine-tuning the model and personal experience of the landscape: each must feed off the other to better the understanding of the past world.

It seems that the majority of VR projects concentrate on the presentational aspects of VR (Goodrick and Earl 2004). It is hoped that this project has demonstrated that analysis and interpretation can profitably take precedence over presentation.


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Last updated: Tues Oct 27 2009