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Three-Dimensional Alternatives to Lithic Illustration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Matthew Magnani*
Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Museum, Room 325, 3260 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 (


Although alternatives have become available, pen and ink drawings of stone tools dominate archaeological publications. Despite the existence of a conventional illustration framework, the work produced by illustrators can be inconsistent and hinges on skill level and time commitment. Discussions going back to the 1880s critically question the use of illustrations for the purpose of scientific publication. Alternatives, such as laser scanning and photogrammetric modeling, are now available for displaying lithics. These alternatives can remove the subjectivity involved in artistic rendering, creating replicable results, regardless of who is collecting the data. In addition to creating more regularized and objective representations, there are a significant number of analytical and other benefits to adopting novel imaging techniques to depict stone tools in publications. A set of three-dimensional (3D) models are presented here to demonstrate the capabilities of laser scanning and, potentially, photogrammetric modeling as replacements for lithic illustration.

A pesar de que existen alternativas más objetivas, los dibujos en papel y tinta de objetos líticos predominan en publicaciones académicas. Aunque existen convenciones de ilustración, el trabajo de los ilustradores puede ser variable y depende de la habilidad y el tiempo empleado. Los problemas acerca la ilustración científica no son nuevos, ya que discusiones desde 1880 cuestionan críticamente la objetividad de las ilustraciones para publicaciones científicas. Algunas alternativas como el escáner láser y la fotogrametría están ahora ampliamente disponibles para las ilustraciones de lítica. Estas alternativas eliminan la subjetividad que implica un diseño artístico, generando resultados que son replicables más allá de quien haya producido los datos. Además de crear representaciones más objetivas, hay un número amplio de ventajas analíticas al adoptar nuevas técnicas de ilustración de lítica. Los investigadores pueden potencialmente realizar nuevos análisis digitales en 3D, ahorrar en su investigación, además de facilitar el acceso a colecciones excavadas globalmente. El artículo presenta una serie de modelos 3D que demuestran la potencialidad del escaneado láser y de la fotogrametría como reemplazos del dibujo lítico. Los modelos de escaneado láser son un sustituto ideal para las ilustraciones, mientras que los modelos fotogramétricos son en muchos casos inadecuados, pero presentan otras ventajas que han de ser tenidas en cuenta.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2014

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