The Wicklow Rock Art Project – Facilitating Virtual Access and Engagement with Prehistoric Rock Art

Clíodhna Ní Lionáin, University College Dublin

The Wicklow Rock Art Project was established as a pilot scheme to explore the potential of photogrammetry in rock art recording, and to examine ways of protecting and promoting prehistoric open-air rock art in a sustainable manner. In the mid-20th century, Wicklow was identified by a number of academics as one of the main foci of open-air rock art in Ireland. However, since then the rock art of Wicklow has slipped out of view, both in terms of the academic attention it receives, as well as the general public’s awareness of its existence. Many of the sites are overgrown, some panels have been damaged due to agricultural and quarrying activity, while others have been moved from their original location. The greatest threat facing open-air rock art today is for it to remain hidden and unknown – the Wicklow Rock Art Project aims to address this through its 3 objectives of Recording, Communication, and Identification. Using photogrammetry to create 3D models (built using Agisoft Photoscan and Meshlab), the project aims to facilitate virtual visits and engagement with these rock art sites. Communication is an essential part of this project, with social media (www.facebook.com/WicklowRockArtProject; www.ahiddenview.com) used to encourage public engagement and involvement. By raising general awareness of open-air rock art it is hoped that the project will lead to increased identification of new rock art sites by the general public, drawing on the crowdsourcing model, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it will encourage people to identify with the rock art in their area, and cultivate a sense of guardianship and protection of this fragile resource.

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