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Cretan Peak Sanctuary Figurines: 3D Scanning Project.

Christine Morris and Alan Peatfield

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1The largest corpus of terracotta figurines from the Cretan Bronze Age comes from the class of ritual mountain sites, known as peak sanctuaries. Thousands of figurines – anthropomorphic, animal, votive body parts, and more elaborate (but largely fragmentary) models – were deposited on these mountain sites during the Minoan palatial periods (second millennium B.C.). Our work with these handmade figurines encompasses the material from our excavation of the Atsipadhes peak sanctuary in western Crete (Peatfield 1992; Morris and Peatfield 2012), and, more recently, figurines from a number of East Cretan peak sanctuaries, as part of a collaboration with Dr Costis Davaras to publish a corpus of the figurines from his excavations.

2As part of the cataloguing and recording of these large bodies of material, we have developed a project to scan a selection of the terracotta figurines in order to produce 3-D images and make them available online. Our overall aim will be to produce high quality scanned images that can be used effectively in an interactive, online environment where the 3-D images can be rotated by the viewer. Traditionally, these figurines have been studied and then represented in publications through photographs, and less often in technical drawings. Our project explores how 3-D images can complement and enhance these modes of representation. Already, the scanned images have helped us with study of technological features of figurine construction and with typological study of the distinctive stylistic features of the figurines from the different sites.

Digitising Cretan Bronze Age Figurines

Digitising Cretan Bronze Age Figurines

3On the practical side, optimum scanning methods using a Next Engine laser scanner were first established using some comparable material in the University College Dublin Classical Museum. For our work in the museums of Crete, performance, speed, and accuracy were evaluated in order to establish best and most effective practice for such work under often hot and dusty conditions. This work was done in collaboration with Dr Will Megarry of the University College Dublin in 2011 and Brendan O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin in 2013, and we have to date scanned sample material from Atsipadhes, Petsofas and Prinias.

4The project is also a case study for exploring wider methodological issues concerning digital representation in archaeology, considering traditional modes of representation in relation to the opportunities offered by newer technologies. Beyond the purely practical issues of time, skill, and accuracy, there are deeper questions of how different methods of representation impact on how the material is studied (e.g. the interaction between archaeologist and artefact) and on how it is represented and communicated in publications for both a specialist and general audience.

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Alan Peatfield, “Rural ritual in Bronze Age Crete: The Peak Sanctuary at Atsipadhes,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal vol. 2:1, 1992, 59-87

Christine Morris, Alan Peatfield, “Dynamic Spirituality on Minoan Peak Sanctuaries,” in K. Rountree, C. Morris, A. Peatfield (eds), Archaeology of Spiritualities, Springer, New York, 2012, 227-245.

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List of illustrations

Title Digitising Cretan Bronze Age Figurines
File image/jpeg, 72k
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Electronic reference

Christine Morris and Alan Peatfield, « Cretan Peak Sanctuary Figurines: 3D Scanning Project. », Les Carnets de l’ACoSt [Online], 10 | 2013, Online since 10 January 2016, connection on 22 January 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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About the authors

Christine Morris

Trinity College Dublin

Alan Peatfield

University College Dublin

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Licence Creative Commons
Les Carnets de l'ACoSt est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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