From Archaeology To Computer Model
Building A Virtual Igluryuaq
In addition to historic sources, archaeological excavations can provide essential information about how Igluryuaq were designed and built. Detailed drawings of Igluryuaq excavated at several archaeological sites in the western arctic were used in this project. Like peeling away the skin of an onion, archaeologists excavate these houses layer by layer, carefully producing maps and illustrations of what they find. Computer modellers are able to use these excavation plans to figure out the dimensions of features such as floors and sleeping platforms. Wire frame models of construction materials such as wood, hide and stone can then be created, textured, and coloured using computer software. The Igluryuaq is then built using this virtual “kit of parts”, along with archaeological plans and historic illustrations which serve as guides.
Many challenges were faced during the construction of the Igluryuaq computer model, including the problem of dealing with “data gaps”. Imagine trying to figure out what a jigsaw puzzle’s picture looks like even though you have only a few of the puzzle’s pieces to work with. You might be able to identify the picture as, say, a cat. However, the colour of its paws and ears, or the details of its collar might remain unknown to you because the puzzle pieces identifying those areas of the picture are missing. The same is true for the Mackenzie Inuit house. We had a general idea of what the house looked like from 19th century drawings and archaeological excavations. However, details such as how the entrance tunnel was designed, how high the sleeping platforms were raised off the floor, and how bright the interior living space would have been are not found in these sources of information. Archaeologists and computer modellers deal with these “missing pieces” by using their best, most informed guesses. This is why it is important to realize that what you are seeing is only an approximation of reality. It is not an exact replica of a Mackenzie Inuit house. Rather, it is our best guess as to what one would look like given the information we have access to.