Replaying the past
: Establishing a 3D simulation methodology for the analysis of roofing and alignments in Neolithic Malta

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


3D simulations, or digital experiments based on 3D models, offer new possibilities for archaeological investigation. Originating in the field of 3D reconstruction (here approximation), 3D simulations consist of virtual environments that act as proxies for an archaeological context, allowing the testing of queries in a controllable and non-destructive way. From simulations based on physics to agent-based modelling, a wide variety of archaeological problems can be investigated, producing new and reliable data that supplements the limited material evidence. However, despite its potential, the lack of an established theoretical background and the reliance on hypothetical assumptions has hampered the widespread use of 3D methodologies in archaeology. This thesis aims to investigate the connection between 3D simulation and the scientific method, to produce results that respect traditional standards of research. The approach is two-fold: firstly, a theoretical discussion is presented, demonstrating the congruousness of 3D simulation with a Popperian method of scientific research. A set of guidelines are identified to ensure consistency in 3D approaches. Secondly, two Test Cases are presented to show 3D simulations can be used to create new data that aids archaeological theory, while maintaining scientific rigour. The Test Cases are based on the Temple Period of Neolithic Malta (3700 BC – 2400 BC), and investigate the orientation and roofing of temple structures. Overall, the thesis introduces a new theoretical basis for 3D simulation that has repercussions on wider digital techniques in archaeology. At the same time, the Test Cases provide new data and observations that significantly alter previously established archaeological theories.

Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorCaroline Malone (Supervisor) & William Megarry (Supervisor)


  • 3d simulation
  • 3d reconstruction
  • Archaeology
  • neolithic Malta
  • archaeological theory

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