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While archaeology and documentary evidence will always the driving force behind the interpretation of the past, the ability to clearly visualise different interpretations and hypotheses is immensely useful for identifying gaps in our knowledge of a site, for highlighting areas of agreement or disagreement between practitioners, for challenging our level of understanding of the details of the past.  Using the survey and visualisation process as an integral part of the investigation and understanding of archaeology may redefine the role of archaeological visualisation from an image to accompany the text to a dynamic digital product which inspires the text.
Staveley Hall
The three-dimensional mapping and reconstruction of Staveley Hall (Chesterfield, Derbyshire) is a cutting-edge archaeological survey and digital visualisation project made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project’s primary objective is to digitally capture the existing structure of the manor house and its surrounding landscape and to integrate this digital information with archaeological investigation and documentary research in order to produce a 3-D model of Staveley Hall as it would have appeared in 1680. This 3-D model will form the basis of an interactive educational resource, through which the user can explore and engage with the history of Staveley Hall and its occupants.
The Staveley Hall Project was conceived and commissioned by Michael McCoy, a Sheffield-based archaeological consultant with previous experience in innovative, digitally-focused projects, while the survey and visualisation work is organised and executed by myself Marcus Abbott of ArcHeritage. The on-site survey was conducted with a Leica C10 laser scanner and consisted of over 50 individual scans. These independent scans were merged into one project file, creating a detailed 3-D representation of the house and the surrounding landscape.

With the information from the laser scan assembled into a navigable file, we could then edit and organise the data from the scan into discrete historical phases, thus creating a 3-D dataset which shows only the features that have survived from a particular phase or period. For this project, we edited the dataset to include only those structural elements which would have been part of the house in 1680. Processing the data in this way we were able to visually identify gaps in our knowledge about the structure of the house, and effectively target these 'data voids' with archaeological and documentary investigation.
This incomplete model of historic Staveley Hall provides us with a 3-D platform on which we can expand and experiment with our interpretation of the archaeological and historical data for the house. We were able to fill the gaps in our knowledge through documentary information and archaeological trenches which investigated missing features of the house. For example, the house had been the subject of an ownership dispute in the 1680's and as a consequence several notebooks that contain measured drawings and sketches of the house exist in the British Library. Although often crude, these sketches were extremely useful, since we could directly compare some of their features with the laser scan. Much like archaeologists use geophysics to target subsurface archaeology, we used the laser scan data as a starting point to create a research and investigation strategy focused on exploring and reconstructing the appearance of the house and landscape in 1680.
After the survey and research phases of the project, our working model was used as a base to create the final, fully textured 3-D visualisation of Staveley Hall and its grounds. Where elements or details of the house were still missing, we used the laser scan data to fill the gaps. Other surviving architectural features were modelled and extrapolated to fill in the missing elements of the house; historic windows, chimneys and decorative mouldings could be recreated using this technique. This process results in the 3-D fully navigable model of Staveley Hall, a model that illustrates the function, benefit and limitations of various forms of evidence.
This 3-D model is not a static representation of Staveley Hall, but has been designed and created in such a way that it can easily be edited to include new ideas and discoveries. Further work is scheduled to take place at Staveley Hall; we are planning to laser scan the recently exposed revetment wall and the full interior of the house, an endeavour that will undoubtedly provide us with new information on the site and its history. This information will be incorporated into the overall Staveley project, and as a result the 3D model will evolve to include new discoveries.
The results of the project have now been incorporated into a digital interface which will allow users to explore the history of Staveley Hall by navigating through the model and selecting various features to display information panels. The interface will also allow the user to see the underlying information upon which the reconstruction was based, providing an understanding of the processes used in the creation of the 3-D reconstruction: digital survey, archaeological and documentary investigations.
Staveley Hall, 20sec animation of the courtyard Staveley_2.html