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In these five exercises, you have learned what 3D models are and how to use metadata to assess a 3D dataset’s reusability for your own research. You’re familiar with errors introduced by data collection methods and materials that are hard to capture with certain recording methods. You’ve learned to work with free, powerful software packages, like Meshlab and CloudCompare, to visualise 3D data in different and informative ways. You’ve learned how to use different morphometric parameters in quantitative analyses to make meaningful comparisons. Finally, you’ve learned to combine both visual and metric analyses as complementary approaches to better understand the lifeways of artefacts.

This lesson illustrates how 3D records can be used as invaluable research tools, creating new opportunities for investigating archaeological questions. Not only do they allow you to visualize these artefacts in new ways, but they also enable morphometric (shape) analyses that would be impractical or impossible using the physical object alone. These digital tools have the most to offer when combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies in informed and creative ways.

Reflect and Go Further

The research questions and methods outlined in these five exercises are by no means the only ones worth pursuing in the analysis of the 3D data from the Boston Fingerprints Project. Review your gallery and reflect – are there any approaches (visual or morphometric) that you think can offer different interpretations of the pottery from these sites? As you explore more of the dataset, more patterns will undoubtedly emerge. TC 22 and TC 25 are quite similar in surface treatment and some decorative elements to PH 21 – could these have been created by the same potter? What morphometrics-based interpretations could one provide to explain how TC 10, a trivet (a type of kiln furniture used to keep unfired vessels apart), ended up on the Three Cranes Tavern site, 100 metres away from the production centre? Are there any other potsherds exhibiting a similar ‘brushed’ surface treatment to TC 23 from the Parker-Harris Pottery site, or is this evidence that the tavern imported some vessel types from further afield? Here, we’ve only explored the 3D records of the fingerprinted potsherds; what other sources of data from the archaeological archives of the Parker-Harris Pottery and Three Cranes Tavern excavations could be incorporated to enhance and contribute to the interpretations of what you’ve discovered thus far?