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The impact of 3D reconstructions - impetus or obstacle to learning?

All 3D reconstructions have strong persuasive power, by their similarity to media commonly held to deliver 'objective' information in contemporary society (camera from home photo albums and videos, to television news, to cinematic documentaries). Virtual Reality - creation of a 3D environment through which the user can 'fly' at will - may have a particularly strong impact, but the possible negative consequences of this are not generally considered. Is the 3D model in VRML format too persuasive? Does it instill a belief in its created object, rather than encourage the learner to look at the evidence? How much effort needs to be devoted to reminding the user that this is just one among many possible pasts, and that reality is never quite as tidy as the VR environment?

The website Digital Egypt for Universities contains a range of 3D models in VRML format for architecture from prehistoric and ancient Egypt. On this page, each is presented alongside (1) a question, (2) links to the relevant 3D reconstruction in various formats and to the background information provided, (3) a short statement from the modeller on the process of creating the model, and (4) a short statement from the archaeologist on the process of assembling the evidence for the model. The reader is then asked whether the question raised has emerged from the pages, and what impact the 3D reconstruction has had - does it distract from the evidence, or does it encourage the learner to find out more?

Question - Function: are these huts for humans or for animals?
Question - early Egyptian urbanism: is Egypt 3300 BC already an urban civilization?
Question - Colour in architecture: were the great tombs monochrome or polychrome?
Question - pyramid power: does a single site reconstruction convey the impact of the first pyramid?
Koptos - the predynastic temple
Question - different options: was the early temple at Koptos closed or open in conception?
Koptos - the ancient Egyptian temple 1600 BC
Question - different pasts: what was built in 1600 BC at Koptos, a whole new temple or some small chapels?
Question - landscape of the largest rock-cut tombs: does VRML convey the impact of the Qau tombs within their specific landscape?
Some Theban temples
Question - change over time: do the changes in the built environment come across clearly on the sequence of views of the site as it may have looked in each period?
Amarna (schematic diagram)
Question - Do you agree with the theory on the significance of the location of the temples in relation to the figures on the stela?
Question - Virtual Reality without evidence: should reconstructions be made where an ancient site offers next to no evidence?
Palace of Apries at Memphis
Question - impact of scale: the gateway blocks from Memphis belong to one of the finest ancient gateways - is this captured on the VRML model, or is the gateway in its different possible locations dwarfed by the Memphis palace?
Question - Do 3D models create a bias towards built environment against natural environment?
Question - One aim of this model is to reveal the extent to which Egypt became integrated into the Greek and Roman world. Does this model bring home to you the Hellenization of Egypt? better than other media?
Scenas Mandras (Shurafa)
Question - Is the variety in the religious buildings enough to indicate the long lifespan of the town?
Question - How realistic is the description of 14 storey high buildings?


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