Three-dimensional visibility analysis of architectural spaces: iconography and visibility of the wall paintings of Xeste 3 (Late Bronze Age Akrotiri)

Eleftheria Paliou, David Wheatley, Graeme Earl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years various methods of visibility analysis have been applied to investigate human engagement, experience and socialisation within historic and prehistoric ’natural’ and built environments. On many occasions these approaches appear to be either extremely limited or wholly inadequate for the interpretation of complex built structures and building interiors because they do not fully model the three-dimensional geometry of such spaces. This paper briefly reviews computational approaches to visual analysis that have been previously applied in archaeological research, and then goes on to introduce a new analytical technique that uses fully 3D reconstructions of past environments. This method integrates common functionalities of 3D modelling software and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), essentially permitting viewshed analysis to be performed upon objects of any form and shape modelled in 3D. We argue that the proposed methodology can generate new data and encourage fresh lines of enquiry in the study of extant and partially preserved historic and prehistoric built structures in a variety of contexts, ranging from building interiors and townscapes to landscapes. The potential of the method is illustrated by applying the suggested analysis to explore visual perception issues associated with the urban remains of Late Bronze Age Akrotiri (Thera, Greece).
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)375-386
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Early online date23 Sept 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


  • visibility, viewshed analysis, 3D modelling, gis, wall paintings, akrotiri, late bronze age

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