Virtual Taphonomy : a New Method Integrating Excavation and Post-processing of Human Remains

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The objective of this paper was to integrate excavation and post-processing of archaeological and osteological contexts and material to enhance the interpretation of these with specific focus on the taphonomical aspects. A method was designed, Virtual Taphonomy, based on the use and integration of image-based 3D modeling techniques into a 3D GIS platform, and tested on a case study. Merging the 3D models and a database directly in the same virtual environment allowed the authors to fully integrate excavation and post-processing in a complex spatial analysis reconnecting contexts excavated on different occasions in the field process. The case study further demonstrated that the method enabled a deeper understanding of the taphonomic agents at work and allowed the construction of a more detailed interpretation of the skeletal remains than possible with more traditional methods. The method also proved to add transparency to the entire research process from field to post-processing and interpretation. Other benefits were the timesaving aspects in documentation, not only in the excavation process but also in post-processing without creating additional costs in material, as the equipment used is available in most archaeological excavations. The authors conclude that this methodology could be employed on a variety of investigations from archaeological to forensic contexts and add significant value in many different respects (for example, detail, objectivity, complexity, time-efficiency) compared to methods currently used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-321
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Archaeology
  • History and Archaeology

Free keywords

  • image-based 3D modelling
  • 3D GIS
  • 3D models
  • burial
  • osteology


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