From a Buried Fragment to the Virtual Artefact: a case study of Greek pottery
Despoina Tsiafaki, Anestis Koutsoudis, Natasa Michailidou and Fotis Arnaoutoglou
The fragmentary condition of objects is often an issue in the study of material cultural heritage. In archaeology, and in pottery studies in particular, fragmentary condition of excavated objects impacts on research into their history and presentation. Ceramic vessels and vase fragments are the most numerous archaeological finds and a primary source of information about various aspects of ancient life: private, public and religious, economic and technological, social and artistic. Pottery plays an essential role in reconstruction of the past. The subject of this chapter is a fragmentary clay drinking cup, kantharos. It is a vessel attributed to the god Dionysus and a typical drinking vase used at symposia (parties). This particular kantharos was unearthed during the excavations at the ancient settlement of Therme, today’s Karabournaki near Thessaloniki, Greece. It was found within the settlement’s architectural remains. The vase dates to the Archaic period (7th-6th century BC).
Although the kantharos shape was widespread in ancient Greece, this specific example is unique in terms of its profile, decoration in form of four snakes, and the unknown pottery workshop where it was made. The decoration suggests a ritual vessel, thus giving a possible insight into local ancient culture. Although much of the kantharos is preserved, its fragmentary condition makes complete reconstruction difficult. Evidence for reliable reconstruction is insufficient: the lower part, that would originally consist of a base and foot, is missing.
The process of virtual reconstruction through 3D visualisation, described by the authors, has contributed significantly to the study and presentation of the vase. They discuss the advantages and limitations of technologies used. The process of
creating this particular computer model may be applied to other fragmentary vases that come either from the excavation at Karabournaki, or any other archaeological site or collection. This research may be of interest to experts in 3D technologies, as well as archaeologists and art historians, both academic scholars and students, museum curators and conservators, educators and other multidisciplinary audiences.
Keywords: Greek pottery, kantharoi, fragmented objects, archaeological excavation data, virtual reassembly, 3D approximation, visualization, COSCH