I wanted to relay some great news for the project! Craig and I have been asked to unveil the final version of the Virtual Longhouse on October 13th during the reception for the Heritage Toronto Gala. This is an exciting opportunity for us to test in public with Heritage professionals, their first impressions of this virtual reality tool set and methodology. However, you the viewer, will get some pre-event exposure was we start to wrap up the exterior of the building and start adding the phenomenological details inside and out over the next few weeks!
After averting disaster last week in Longhouse 3.3, we were able to get back to finishing the interior structural requirements. However, I wanted to explain a little further the confusion people have regarding changes within 3D modelling. In the 20 years of CGI production, this was the greatest client management issue we had to deal with. CGI/3D is flexible, but after a certain point, the model either has to be taken apart piece by piece and remodelled and/or completely rebuilt. In our case, since Craig took the time to make sure that all of the model details where themselves individual separate pieces, we could scale the width and height easily of the main support structure, without causing the same scaling issues on the other model elements. Even minor changes take time to do, however if this was a service production and the archaeologist or heritage stakeholder continued to make the minor changes Craig and I have been doing, it would get very expensive very fast. The key for future heritage stakeholders is to have a well thought out plan before executing in 3D. This way any revisions can be minor.
I’m quite happy with the outcome of our process so far. Following The London Charter in terms of transparency in the decisions we have taken has been liberating. By giving you the reader the full access to the problems, issues and angst we are encountering has helped in being able to identify issues and new areas of research. Tom Frankland and Graham Earl (2011), Jeremy Huggett (2012 & 2013) and Sara Perry (2015) have all recently discussed the role of the archaeologist-as-artist and the pitfalls related to the lack of transparency and authenticity in the production of virtual archaeology. This in turn I hope, has provided a solid “insiders” view of the production process.
Below is what we are considering a structurally sound, reimagination of the interior structural system of a Northern Iroquoian Longhouse. To bring later readers up to speed, we used Christine Dodd’s quantitative research on longhouse measurements and her subsequent “a-typical” dimensions to build our virtual longhouse. It was to be 7m’s wide, 7m’s high and 24m’s long. The bunks were to be no longer than 2m’s in depth and 4m’s in length along the longhouse walls. Interior support posts were roughly 15cm’s in diameter and exterior wall posts 3-5cm’s in diameter. Following Dean Snow, the bunks were to be 30cm’s off the ground with the top bunk (or compartment roof) being no higher than 4-5m’s. Also following Snow, we added cedar bark walls to separate each family unit bunk space. Following Mima Kapches we use the bent wall post arbour effect but used Dean Snow’s concept of a 60% wall and 40% roof for proportions. To provide interior stabilization, we used Bill Kennedy’s and Geoff Carter’s suggestions of a solid wall to wall lateral support structure. We followed Ron Williamson’s modern interpretation of the top roofline and smoke holes and lastly J.V. Wright’s excellent observations on specific wood types for each part of the longhouse construction, the number of wall poles per meter and the taper length associated with that wood type being used. Along the way Craig and I added a few of our own observations and changes.So far the dimensions, assumptions and direction from the archaeological record seems to be paying off. We have added randomness to the objects that are typically repeated. Each pole is a different diameter, taper length and even texture map.Where possible we have twisted the poles slightly to mimic natural growth and have added elements such as branch knuckles, rough cuts and extra dirty textures at the base of the poles where they would meet dirt, in the middle where constant hands would rub up against them and up top where the creosote would build up.In the image above, the spacing for the smoke holes were large enough to allow for possible movement. I envision that when a fire hearth below moved, the longhouse architect would get up on the roof and shift roofing shingles to so that rain and melting snow wouldn’t interfere with the fire itself. The wide gap between the two ends of the roof terminating gabled walls would allow for an easy modification of the smoke holes.
We also went with the concept that the inner wall of the longhouse entrance (not the rounded vestibules) were actually covered in the same cedar shingles or wall sheets that were used in the bunks. This made a lot of sense as it would have kept the heat within the main section of the longhouse and would allow for a double door during the winter. However with the image below, I’m going to opt for a longer cedar strip, similar to what longhouse builders might have done when harvesting the cedar bark for boats, containers and other household items (see image beside).
So we are now ready to mount the shingles and add the rounded vestibules. Next week we will have the first real rendered sequences and I’ll go more into depth on the technique Craig came up with by doing virtual reality site inspections with the Ocular Rift headset.
Lastly I wanted to touch upon something Jennifer Birch and Ron Williamson suggested recently in their book; The Mantle Site: An Archaeological History of an Ancestral Wendat Community. The Mantle Site was a massive 99+ longhouse city ringed by an impressive palisaded area. There is an indication that refuse trenching occurred outside the palisaded walls which would indicate that some basic form of community organization occurred. Obviously my thoughts were whether this particular community had a permanent group of individuals who were responsible for longhouse design and construction or conversely, if every community of members within a longhouse were solely responsible for their own construction, repairs and possible fire-fighting needs?