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Exercise 4

Allow at least 30 minutes to reconstruct assets; further time will be needed for texturing or other details to be added.

Part B: Building a prehistoric house in Blender

A step-by-step video for Exercise 4B can be found here.

While greyboxing may give us enough to work with to meet the some of the most basic requirements of our reconstruction (layout of buildings/walls and scale of features), it is likely that you will want to model assets to provide a more detailed interpretation of the site. For this, we may want to review some reference images for proposed reconstructions of Middle/Late Bronze Age structures in Greece (have a look online, but be critical; which seem credible?). For the purposes of this exercise, we will go through how to recreate the basic form of one of the Late Bronze Age houses at Tsoungiza.

One of the reconstructed Late Bronze age houses created for the site of Tsoungiza, created by The Institute for the Visualisation of History.

Though there are many Blender tutorials available online that walk you through creating architectural assets like houses, our process will be more complicated, as we are working with the reality-captured data as a footprint for the shapes we’ll be creating. The structures at Malthi were not as rectangular and regular as a modern house.

Do note that there are many different ways to approach 3D modelling, and the below is just one possible workflow. It could be that you may want to block out each potential structure first, leaving roofs and other structural details until the last step. However, this tutorial is designed to familiarise you with the basic 3D modelling tools and features so that you can develop your own preferred workflow.

Think and Respond: Consider the area of the site that you have already greyboxed; how many of these walls do you think could have feasibly belonged to a single, roofed structure? How many basic shapes will you need to put together to recreate the visible footprint of the structures?


Because we want to build off of our meshed laser scan data of the site, it is useful to have the ‘Snap’ function enabled to snap to ‘Vertex’, functions you can find across the top of your ‘3D Viewport’ in its toolbar – this way you can ensure that your modelled assets will be sitting directly on the stone foundations. This exercise will be focusing on the footprint of a potential building in the northern region of the upper terrace.

Snapshot of the 'Snap' dropdown menu from the 3D Viewport toolbar.

First, let’s build our structure from a basic cube.

A cube is placed in the scene above the greyboxed walls of Malthi - in the 'Transform' panel, we have changed the 'Y' dimension of our cube to 1.7 metres and 'locked' that dimension of our cube's scale.

The corners of the box have been stretched to cover a theoretical 'building unit' using the corners of the cubes used in greyboxing.

As discussed in Exercise 2, we don’t know what the roofs of the structures at Malthi would have looked like; there are many forms they could have taken, and they could have been mudded, thatched or wooden. If we are trying to recreate the roof used in the Tsoungiza example above, we may prefer a slight peak to the roof (for guidance in constructing other types of roofs, see ‘The CG Essentials’ YouTube channel:

Remember to save!

Before we start on the roof, we need to set the ‘centre’ of our object to make local transformations easier. Because we have created an irregular shape for our building to match the reality-captured floorplan, many of the ‘easy’ modelling functions that are used in 3D modelling tutorials may act oddly unless this is set. Switch to ‘Object mode’, and under ‘Object, navigate to ‘Set Origin’, then ‘Origin to Centre of Mass (Volume)’. In the toolbar for your 3D Viewport, switch to ‘Local transformation orientation’.

Set the origin of your object to the centre of the cube and switch from 'global' to 'local transformation orientation'.

Now, let’s build our theoretical roof.

Using the loop cut-generated edge on the top of the structure to create the 'roof' peak.

The faces of the roof have been selected and extruded, creating the basis for a peaked roof.

Extruding the sides of the roof beyond the wall.

After moving the edges of the roof to a more realistic position.

After creating a roof overhang for the front and back of the building. Note that an 0.3 m overhang was added all around the roof.

Extruding along normals to create the roof has caused some of the geometry to become disjointed.

By using the 'Merge by Distance' tool, the gapped or overlapping geometry merges together to fix your roof.

Creating inset faces on the front of our structure to extrude back and create the 'porch area'.

Ensuring that 'Individual' is checked will leave the beginnings of a 'support post' in your porch.

Extruding your inset faces back into the structure will create your 'porch' space.

Creating a loop cut to define the support post.

Showing how to target specific faces for deletion, to create a pole support for our reconstruction.

Remember to Save!

Holes created by deleting faces in the previous step have been filled, leaving a support post at the front of the structure.

Whether you created the post at the front of the structure or not, our house is looking quite angular for a prehistoric building. While the visible foundations of the buildings at Malthi are largely rectangular, they often have rounded corners. To simulate this, we will use the ‘Bevel’ function.

Applying the bevel tool to the front walls of the structure. The various options to alter the bevel appear on the bottom edge of the screen.

Once the bevel is applied, a new panel appears.

The final house constructed compared to the example reconstruction.

Try it yourself! If you wanted to add the cross-beam to your modelled house to better replicate the Tsoungiza reconstruction, how would you do this in Blender? At which step would you have added it? Try adding another building – are there any differences in the floorplan of this structure that affected how you designed this second structure?

The reconstructed house on the Malthi normal map

Think and Respond: After greyboxing Malthi and reconstructing a hypothetical Bronze Age structure to fit the extant structural remnants on site, has this helped you to understand the site better? Is there anything you noticed about the site through the process of modelling? How did the process of modelling affect your interpretation of the site?

Overall, this exercise has introduced you to many of the essential 3D modelling tools in functions in Blender, including:

If you wish to try applying textures to your house, continue to Part C of Exercise 4 before Exporting.


Once you have created your reconstruction, it is time to export your creation for use in another venue (Sketchfab, Unity, Unreal, etc). If we want to maintain the positioning of our different features, we may want to export all of our greyboxed walls, our reconstructed house, and the base-map of Malthi. Ensure that all of these are selected in the ‘Scene Collection’ window by left-clicking them while holding the Ctrl key.

Once these are highlighted, navigate to ‘File > Export > FBX’. This will bring up a window where you have many options. First, name your file a sensible name. Then, ensure that you check the ‘Limit to Selected Objects’ box and the ‘Apply Transform’ options. Then click ‘Export’.

A screenshot of the options available upon export.

All of the associations with materials will be maintained in this file. You can change the orientation of your reconstruction before exporting, by changing the ‘Forward’ and ‘Up’ settings, but ensure that you know what orientation the destination game engine or 3D hosting platform uses (though in most cases it is quite simple to realign your reconstruction, even if you misjudge it here).

Think and Respond: Do you feel that these assets are sufficient for a reconstruction of the site? What do you feel is missing? While sculpting individual bricks into the side of your reconstructed house might be satisfying, is it necessary to fulfil the brief? Do you need a textured house for the purposes of your reconstruction?

Resources for Exercise 4:

Go back to Part A of Exercise 4 Go to optional Part C of Exercise 4 Go to Exercise 5