University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Material Motion: A case study in quantitative motion analysis
Kirk Woolford, Stuart Dunn

Last modified: 2011-12-15


It is paradoxical that the one thing which most visual 3D representations of the human past lack is humans. The most obvious reason for this is that buildings, features and artefacts can be reconstructed (whether digitally or not) from empirical archaeological remains, whereas there is far less direct evidence for how people would have looked and moved. Through the AHRC funded, “Motion in Place Platform” project, a team of researchers from the Universities of Sussex, Bedfordshire, Reading, Kings College London, and others spent much of 2010-2011 exploring applications of motion capture to Arts and Humanities fields in order to develop quantitative methods for understanding how human beings move in different environments.

Within this project, a number of experiments were conducted to look for quantitative differences in movement in virtual vs material environments. Actors were asked to enact a number of activities hypothesised to have occurred in a British Iron Age roundhouse while wearing inertial motion capture suits. These activities were recorded both in a “virtual” studio (re)construction as well as material (re)construction at Butser Ancient Farm. The data from these experiments was then analysed to look for differences in movement which could be attributed to artefacts and/or environments.

This paper will explain the structure of the experiments, how the data was generated, how it has been analysed, and what conclusions have been drawn about how objects and environments may influence human movement and how a better understanding of movement many help understand empirical remains.


Motion capture data; reconstruction; virtual reality