Myth and Mythology (2017)

Myth and Mythology (2017)

The precious nature of ancient artefacts can restrict how we interact with them. Human curiosity to touch, handle and play with physical objects is part of our learning process and the motivation behind this project.

Diana Burton at the VUW Classics Programme identified a wish to produce cost effective reproductions of Greek kylix bowls that can be actively used in her teaching with the students. The kylix bowls made in pottery were used by the ancient Greeks in drinking games and the capability to re-enact this activity with her students was a key requirement.

The challenge in this project was to use digital technologies to bring artefacts that are so precious they reside in glass display cabinets out as a teaching resource. Greek artefacts from the period c. 550 BC were 3D scanned, digitally enhanced, colour mapped and 3D printed to become working objects in the recreation of ancient times.

At first glance the academic environments of Classical Studies and Industrial Design have little in common. However, on closer inspection, there is a great deal of overlap, specifically insofar as both disciplines focus on the physical artefact. Industrial Designers study society to influence the composition and construction of an artefact. Classical historians, especially those concerned with the analysis of physical artefacts, use artefacts to construct an idea or vision of the people and life of the period they study. With this relationship in mind, the two disciplines may develop new methodology and build bodies of knowledge that are of great value to one another.

This project uses digital processes including 3d modelling and additive manufacturing to intersect the disciplines through creativity in making and storytelling, asking questions on how we communicate, and providing greater depth to our findings.

Under supervision by Diana Burton, Bernard Guy and Zach Challies, undergraduate first year classical studies students were tasked with re-contextualising a classical myth in a modern context and interpreting this new myth as a 2-dimensional tableau onto a provided paper template. This image was then mapped to a 3d model of an ancient artefact and 3d printed using colour capable Additive Manufacturing techniques through an online 3d printing service, Shapeways.

“Students found the assignment engaging and thought-provoking. They were imaginative in their use of Greek myth – for example Sisyphus, who is condemned forever to roll a rock up a hill repeatedly, only to watch to fall back down again, was used as a metaphor for student debt; Poseidon god of the sea presided over the 2009 tsunami in Samoa; the great civilising hero Heracles was depicted wrestling with a Pokemon monster; and so forth. But they also used the myths as vehicles for social comment, to think about issues such as student drinking, family quarrels, domestic violence and other sensitive issues, finding that the use of Greek myth was a useful distancing technique. This is very much the way in which the Greeks used their mythical images, as a number of the students noted in their written reports.”

Materials and Processes – close-up


 Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop


3D scanning: Artec Eva

 Project level

Undergraduate project work for CLAS 102 (Classical Studies), Course Coordinator Diana Burton

3D hands-on history

Ancient Greece Meets the Digital Future

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