It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it: using 3D modelling techniques to think through passage-tomb construction at Knowth, Co. Meath.
John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies Doctoral Scholar
UCD School of Archaeology
Over the last 20 years or so, 3D modelling techniques have become accepted, and indeed valued, tools for the visualisation of archaeological data. Somewhere along the way though, both the integrity of this data and the advancement of research have become secondary concerns, seemingly eclipsed by the urge to the produce the most photorealistic models technology will allow. As such, the completed model has become the end goal, with the techniques employed largely dismissed as incidental – a means to an end. In a bid to redress this imbalance and broaden what has until now been a rather narrow perspective, my own work on the building of the Neolithic passage-tomb cemetery at Knowth, Co. Meath explores the heuristic potential of the modelling process, arguing that virtual worlds can be used to analyse or interrogate the evidence as well as visualise it. Building on a wealth of invaluable research into the architectural and engineering devices employed at Knowth, this approach brings the evidence for traditionally compartmentalised aspects of construction together within a single, three dimensional space; and in doing so, allows these various strands of data to be considered not merely as discrete, abstract categories, but as tangible materialities that flow into and make sense of each other. The building process, which is so often discussed in terms of the finished product, is thus re-imagined as a gradually unfolding discourse from which both the tombs and the tomb building community emerged.