12. Conclusion

Discussion of status of model

The computer-generated model of the tomb of Sen-nedjem successfully reconstructs the archaeological evidence available into a cohesive whole, which illustrates how the tomb could have looked in its heyday. Although this tests the limits of current hardware and software, it shows that VRML can be used to achieve archaeological reconstructions, and the photorealistic virtual structure created could be used as the basis of an educational experience for installation in a museum. However, there is still considerable work to be done on the user interface before the package could be deemed fit for installation in a public environment, and the authenticity of the model remains in doubt because the user cannot differentiate between areas based on archaeological evidence and those devised by the model's creator.

Problems found

The major problem regarding the model is the lack of information provided about the structure. Questions need to be asked regarding the function of the display; what learning outcome is to be fulfilled by experiencing the model? Without an integrated information system, for example to provide an interpretation of the wall paintings and explain their detail and significance, the model becomes a technical showcase which allows fairly photorealistic archaeological reconstructions to be shown, but gives little real educational benefit. Virtual reality is only one of many multimedia tools and should be used alongside others to provide information by all means available.

There were major problems found with the design of the user interface, and perhaps too much emphasis was placed on developing the model in the time-scale given, neglecting issues concerning how the public would actually access it.

However, in saying this, the groundwork has been done to implement a successful virtual display. The technical issues encountered in creating the model were wide and varied, and a great deal of ingenuity had to be applied to reach its present state. Although there are a few areas in the model which could be tidied up (the backdrop could be improved, the sky could perhaps show night and day, a few faces in the structure need to be re-aligned to ensure they are flush with other walls), the general consistency of the model is of a high quality, and essentially any other adjustments are small refinements. The virtual reality model is ready to be viewed by the public; it is the means by which it is viewed that needs to be improved.

Future work

The VRML model itself, as stated above, is in a finished state. With any project of this type there are always additions that could be made - for example improvement in the background to indicate the tomb's place in the complex at Deir el-Medina, and the use of sound within the tomb to improve the multimedia experience - but essentially the model successfully renders the structure required to a high standard. Future work will concentrate on developing the user interface to make it more intuitive, interactive and informative to the viewer, as specified in section 9.

Other possibilities that could be looked into include having the model assessed by experienced archaeologists to gauge how authentic the reconstruction actually is. With the publication of the catalogue relating to the tomb of Sen-nedjem, and the permission acquired to use the images in the catalogue, authentic virtual exhibits could be placed in the tomb model. These too could be linked to a database, providing the technical means necessary eventually to link existing museum catalogues with virtual reality worlds to place museum artefacts into an authentic context.


Building the virtual world is only the start of implementing an archaeological reconstruction for public education. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the virtual world actually provides some information regarding the time-scale, form and context of the structure, whilst stressing that the representation is merely an impression of what the scene could have been like, even if based on archaeological evidence (early archaeological reports do not provide the information necessary to implement a virtual structure). Due to the public's lack of familiarity with the technology, extra care must also be taken to explain how to use it. That said, VRML has been shown to be capable of dealing with complex archaeological data, and the software involved is capable of rendering photorealistic surfaces. VRML does provide a means of supplying archaeological reconstructions for public education more cheaply and efficiently than other available alternatives, but until methodologies are put in place regarding the creation and evaluation of such packages, their development will be hindered and their educational worth remain unassessed. A great deal of work needs to be undertaken before virtual reality becomes a common feature in public spaces.


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Last updated: Mon Nov 29 1999