The project was concerned with the role of the visual in scientific practices of 19th– century classical archaeology. The main questions were: what scientific practices are relevant to a history of visualization in archaeology and how did the transformation of objects into images take place in the different stages of archaeological practice?

Research

The project was concerned with the role of the visual in scientific practices of 19th– century classical archaeology. As an object-based science, archaeology had an inexorable need to produce and refer to reproductions to facilitate comparative research, since the objects of archaeological inquiry were dispersed all over the world in different places, museums, and institutions and often could not be carried to archaeologists home institutions. Moreover, archaeologists had to retrieve their objects from the ground.

Archaeologists and architects transformed in situ objects through complex processes of visualization into objects of scientific archaeology. In this project, I recover precisely these multi-level steps that enabled researchers to move these finds across different media and ultimately, from the ground onto the desk.

By the mid-19th century, different instruments of replication and reproduction were being tested and improved; photographs, drawings, prints, and plaster casts were used side-by-side. The fact that different techniques were tried and became available at the same time, had direct and indirect consequences for the formation of knowledge in the archaeological discipline. In my project, I show how different representational techniques conveyed specific aspects of the object under consideration and construction; line drawings were often used to evoke common iconographic references, while photographs were relied upon to offer exact and “naturalistic” representations of surface features and particularities. In this way, different media and modes of staging and representing were deployed to create rich and inter-connected associations between objects and audiences.

The main questions which are addressed in the project are: what scientific practices are relevant to a history of visualization in archaeology and how did the transformation of objects into images take place in the different stages of archaeological practice: from the excavation to the published results, to the collection and classification of material objects in books and museums, and to the broader reception in popular books, exhibitions, and journals. The archaeologists’ working processes involving images are analyzed on the basis of the prominent mid-19th century German excavations, Olympia and Pergamon. In this context I examine the communication between scholars, draftsmen and photographers, in order to differentiate and explain the different contexts of pictures in the scientific field of archaeology.

The relationship between drawing and photography is of special importance for understanding the role of images in archaeology. Although photography was applied soon after its invention for archaeological purposes, drawings would remain in use as one of the main working instruments. The project analyzes the specific styles of drawings, including archaeological and architectural approaches and shows that the architectural way of drawing was highly dependent on the professional training of the architects in copying ancient architecture and its orders. These classical models were considered canonical in their education. In the second half of the 19th century more and more architects became interested in the history of concrete pieces of architecture and their development, which in turn changed their drawing conventions. Thus, over the course of my study, I trace how architects shifted attention from representing ideal types to focusing and rendering specific objects.

 

The dissertation was successfully completed in 2012.