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By All Means Necessary – 2.5D and 3D Recording of Surfaces in the Study of Southern Scandinavian Rock Art

Journal article
Authors Christian Horn
Johan Ling
Ulf Bertilsson
Richard Potter
Published in Open Archaeology
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 81-96
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 81-96
Language en
Keywords rock art; documentation; Reflectance Transformation Imaging; Structure from Motion; Optical Laser Scanning; southern Scandinavia; Tanum; Bronze Age
Subject categories Archaeology, North European


Southern Scandinavia is Europe’s richest region in terms of figurative rock art. It is imperative to document this cultural heritage for future generations. To achieve this, researchers need to use the most objective recording methods available in order to eliminate human error and bias in the documentation. The ability to collect more data is better, not only for documentation, but also for research purposes. Recent years have seen the wider introduction of image based 2.5D and 3D modelling of rock art surfaces. These methods are Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), Structure from Motion (SfM), and Optical Laser Scanning (OLS). Importantly, these approaches record depth difference and the structure of engraved lines. Therefore, they have clear advantages over older methods such as frottage (rubbings) and tracing. Based on a number of short case studies, this paper argues that 2.5D and 3D methods should be used as a standard documentation techniques, but not in an exclusionary manner. The best documentation, enabling preservation and high-quality research, should employ all methods. Approaching rock art with all the research tools available we can re-appraise older documentation as well as investigate individual action and the transformation of rock art.

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