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Representation and Structure Conflict in the Digital Age

Reassessing Archaeological Illustration and the Use of Cubist Techniques in Depicting Images of the Past

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Eric S. Carlson*
Affiliation:
Historical Research Associates, Inc., 125 Bank St # 500, Missoula, MT 59802 (esccarlson@yahoo.com; http://www.escillustration.com)

Abstract

Digital imaging technologies have enhanced archaeological research and profoundly expanded the scale of the discipline’s potentialities. As illustrators and archaeologists move away from using hand-drawn images (of hand-held, real-life objects) to depict artifacts and other archaeological information, certain capabilities of the traditional illustrative process are lost. One such loss is the ability to present a complete and informed representation of an artifact free of the distortions and visual limitations that single-perspective (i.e., digital or photographic) imagery produces. This is accomplished by the illustrator through the unification of multiple views of the artifact from various perspectives into a single two-dimensional image that communicates to the viewer important attributes of the artifact, free of distortion and remaining true to the measured, analytical conventions of the illustrative process. Liberation from the single-viewpoint perspective was one of the fundamental elements of the Cubist movement. Traditional archaeological illustrators utilize Cubist principles to communicate visually to the viewer a complete, accurate, and undistorted package of information about an artifact. The supplanting of hand-drawn illustrations by digital images in today’s archaeological publications threatens to revert the visual representation of data back to uninformed, surficial “snapshots” of incomplete objects.

Las tecnologías de imágenes digitales han enaltecido los métodos de investigación arqueológica y ampliado abismalmente la escala de potenciales de la disciplina. Al alejarse los ilustradores y los arqueólogos de la representación de objetos dibujados a mano alzada, sosteniéndolos con la mano, inclusive de otro tipo de información arqueológica, se han perdido capacidades específicas del proceso clásico de la ilustración. Una de éstas es la capacidad de la ilustración para mostrar una representación completa e informada de un artefacto, sin las distorsiones y limitaciones visuales que introduce la perspectiva de un solo plano de las imágenes digitales o fotográficas. Esto se logra por el ilustrador a través de unificar las múltiples vistas de un artefacto desde varias perspectivas, en una imagen de dos dimensiones que comunica al observador los atributos importantes del artefacto sin distorsión alguna, permaneciendo fiel a las convenciones analíticas y mesuradas del proc so de ilustración. El liberarse de la perspec iva de un solo plano fue uno de los elementos fundamentales del movimiento cubista. Los ilustradores clásicos dentro de la arqueología utilizan los principios del movimiento cubista para comunicar al observador un paquete de información completo, preciso y sin distorsión en torno a un artefacto. La sustitución de ilustraciones hechas a mano por las imágenes digitales de las publicaciones arqueológicas amenaza con revertir la representación visual de los datos en una “instantánea” superficial, desinformada e incompleta de los objetos.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2014

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