Exploration of Maltese prehistoric temples through the application of Multimedia Technologies
This paper focuses on the archaeology of the Maltese megalithic temples and the application of multimedia techniques to create compelling cultural experiences. In 2001, the UNESCO megalithic temple Mnajdra, in South East Malta, one of the oldest freestanding monuments in the world, suffered a severe vandalism attack that drew attention to the strong need to protect and conserve heritage monuments. Mnajdra is classed by ICOMOS Malta as level 5 (showing intense signs of risk without possible reversibility). In light of the importance of material megalithic artefacts and the increased pressure of tourism it is important to find creative solutions to physical visitation that continue to provide meaningful experiences for visitors. This paper investigates how digital media and screen-based navigation can be utilised to provide engagement with Maltese prehistory. Rather than questions of preservation and conservation, issues of spatial navigation and end user interaction are addressed. Using methodologies from computer games the paper addresses how the visitor might interact with Maltese megalithic temple culture through the construction of scenarios that create cultural and social presence. Drawing on the work of Maltese archaeologists including Dr John D. Evans and Dr David Trump, the paper proposes that the role of archaeological integrity and research is central to the design of effective cultural heritage experiences. Describing visualization and forms of user embodiment, the paper will outline the principles of spatial navigation for different social groups and sets of cultural knowledge. This approach enables different communities of end users such as cultural historians, archaeologists and tourists to engage in enhanced social interaction with cultural and heritage spaces. The approach taken in the paper can be summarised thus: 堄evelop new interactive context of Maltese prehistory by applying gameplay and associated multimedia methodology. 堉dentify the principles of spatial navigation for creating cultural and social presence. 堄emonstrate how visualization techniques can be developed for the exploration of temple spaces. 堉nvestigate the construction of metaphysical or symbolic ritual environments through abstract avatars, performance modes, sonic and spatial models. Such concerns are formative ones for the cross over between archaeological research and digital media. New knowledge in this area contributes to further understanding of the procedures for how Maltese and international communities might construct new modes of engagement for Megalithic cultural heritage. This research is also applicable to the development of protocols for sharing Maltese heritage material across international archaeological communities, museums and commercial ventures.
Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry