Immediate Realities: an anthropology of computer visualisation in archaeology

Jonathan Bateman

Research School of Archaeology and Archaeological Science, University of Sheffield


The use of computer visualisation techniques is an increasing part of archaeology's illustrative repertoire - but how do these images relate to the wider visual language that archaeologists use? This article assesses computer visualisations in the light of a range of anthropological, art historical, and cultural critiques to place them and their production squarely within the broader spectrum of the discipline's output.

Moving from identifying the shortcomings in the methods and scope of existing critiques of archaeological illustrations, a comprehensive approach to understanding the visual culture of archaeology is outlined. This approach is specifically applied to computer visualisations, and identifies both the sociology of their production, and the technological nature of their creation and reproduction as key elements influencing their readings as communicators of archaeological ideas. In order to develop useful understandings of how the visual languages we employ act within the discourse of the discipline, we must be inclusive in our critiques of those languages. Until we consider the cultural products of our discipline with the same sophistication with which we examine the products of other cultures (past and present), we will struggle to use them to their full potential.


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Last updated: Fri Jun 23 2000