Our understanding of the human past is very limited. The mute evidence from excavation – the dusty pot shards, fragments of bone, slight variations in soil colour and texture – encourages abstraction and detachment. Reconstruction art offers a different way into the past, bringing archaeology to life and at times influencing and informing archaeologist’s ideas. At its best it delivers something vivid, vital and memorable.
Illustrating the Past explores the history of reconstruction art and archaeology. It looks at how attitudes have swung from the scientific and technical to a freer more imaginative way of seeing and back again. Through the exploration of seven artists’ work, the reader is shown how the artist’s way of seeing illustrates the past and sometimes how it has changed the way the past is seen.
Illustrators working in archaeology are often anonymous and yet the picture that summarises an excavation can be the idea that endures. As well as drawing on her specialist knowledge, Judith Dobie uses conversation and correspondence to build a picture of how these artists’ personalities, interests and backgrounds influences their art. Case studies featuring working sketches demonstrate how reconstruction artists deliver understanding and can change the interpretation of a site. This book celebrates and acknowledges reconstruction art within the field of archaeology.