Heather Christie MLitt Celtic and Viking Archaeology, University of Glasgow; BA (Hons) Anthropology, St. Lawrence University

Job Title:

PhD Research Student


School of Simulation and Visualisation



Image of Bead.
Macro image of Scottish class 13 glass bead.

Image of Bead.


Heather Christie

3D Visualization of Small Finds in Archaeology

Supervisors: Dr. Stuart Jeffrey, Dr. Ewan Campbell (University of Glasgow)

In the last decade, 3D modelling has become an essential method for visualising archaeological material because 1) it allows access to material regardless of its physical location; and 2) it often provides information not otherwise available in writing or other forms of visualisation. Yet, little has been done to create models of small objects appropriate for use by specialist researchers. This is partly due to the translucent and reflective nature of many of these objects, making visualisation difficult at best.

Beads, for example, have been one of the most ubiquitous trade items worldwide for over 2500 years, and often travel quite far from their point of origin. Beads are therefore important for understanding patterns of global trade and interaction. However, they are also small, reflective and translucent, causing problems for photography, illustration, and other forms of visualisation. Consequently, the lack of satisfactory documentation and visualisation techniques has severely hindered research into this highly important artefact category.

My work investigates the uses of 3D modelling for archaeological small finds, using bead collections from early medieval Scotland as a case study. I am using techniques such as photogrammetry, RTI and multispectral imaging to create models that highlight surface and subsurface characteristics of these beads. There are two primary objectives: 1) Find cheap, practical, and easily replicable methodologies for creating 3D models of small, translucent, and reflective objects; and 2) Make the models and related data available in an open-access, relational database. This will provide new techniques to archaeologists working with objects that are difficult to visualise and will also provide significant developments in archaeological research on beads. While the techniques are being developed in the field of archaeology, they will be usable by any researcher working with objects that share one or more of these characteristics, regardless of their field of research.