I’m into my third month as a 3D environment artist at Wessex Archaeology and still enjoying the novelty of getting paid to learn about history and make art!
One of the projects I’ve been working on recently is a 3D reconstruction of a Bronze Age roundhouse. In this piece I’m going to share a bit about what I’d like to achieve with this project and why I think projects like this are so valuable.
First, we’re going to go back in time a bit (this shouldn’t be hard for a company of archaeologists) to when I was a kid and my grandad first got me interested in history. He did this by telling me stories. This made the history enjoyable and accessible to me, bringing ancient places to life and letting me empathise with long-dead characters. Since then, I’ve come to believe that history can be made unnecessarily boring by facts and dates, and by fixating on questions like: “what was the key factor behind event X, and what does historian Y think about it?” Yes, this stuff is useful; but for me history is most valuable as a compelling narrative, as this is when it is most interesting, thought provoking, and inspiring to me.
And these tales can be told in many different ways: Since those first stories, I’ve enjoyed history through comic books, podcasts, animations, YouTube videos, and even computer games. Now I want to use VR and real time rendering, as yet another way of bringing the rich narratives of history to life. The Bronze Age doesn’t quite give us the great figures and epic conquests of written history, but it does give us a ‘slice of life’ that is just as fascinating. This more intimate, everyday history lends itself perfectly to a 3D experience. What better way to convey life in the Bronze age than letting people experience it for themselves! They can appreciate how it feels to be inside a roundhouse, from its physical dimensions to its warm, smoky atmosphere. They can see how the archaeological remains that survive today would have looked back then, and understand them not as artifacts, but as key parts of people’s lives.
My hope is that this will give them a glimpse into the minds of their distant ancestors and bring a distant era to life. That for me is the value in the work I am doing – just like my grandad’s stories, it is a way to make history accessible and enjoyable.