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“Not Just a Pretty Picture”: Interpretive Visualisation as Design Practice in Archaeology.
Archaeological visualisation, or the act of picturing the past in the present, is a complex area of research which exists at the convergence of evidence, interpretation, scientific data collection and artfully crafted storytelling. It is a process which relies on personal engagement between practitioner, practice and the archaeological record. Despite the ever present practice of image-making in archaeology, recurrent debates wrestle with a reluctance to engage with subjective methodologies and the visual outputs of practice-based research. Design connects creativity and innovation, it is characterized by similar attributes to the interpretive process in archaeology: collaboration, intention, experimentation and discovery. Both design and interpretive visualization are a means of seeing and interacting with the world, they are a work in progress with a human perspective. As part of their visualization practice both archaeologists and designers imagine, research and problem solve. Reflecting upon the authors’ shared experiences assuming dual identities between the fields of archaeology, art and design this paper considers the interdisciplinary building blocks which encourage innovation in practice. What vantage points have we been afforded by adopting transient roles as archaeologists, makers and storytellers? We argue that viewing the process of image-making in archaeology within the constructs of a design challenge could provide the field with the framework it badly needs to better understand the role of “creative disruption” in archaeology. Ultimately exploring how these shared perspectives might help develop creative methodologies and outputs which more meaningfully reflect the multi-layered, multi-vocal and ambiguous processes involved in archaeological interpretation.