This paper describes a methodology and software engine for generating dynamic vegetation models for archaeological reconstruction and interactive visualisation, integrating the disciplines of Artificial Life (Alife) and Virtual Reality. The engine, based on the concept of emergence (a phenomenon in complex Alife systems), uses real botanical parameters, channelled through simple rules, in order to synthesise the dispersal patterns of natural vegetation communities as they grow, reproduce, and compete for resources. The foci for the development and evaluation of the Alife engine described relate to different scenarios in nature as may have existed during the Mesolithic period. Results from the study showed evidence of correlations between the artificial vegetation and their natural counterparts, demonstrating the feasibility of using such models in historical landscape reconstructions.
The fusion of Virtual Reality and Artificial Life technologies has opened up a valuable and effective technique for research in the field of dynamic archaeological reconstruction. This paper describes early evaluations of simulated vegetation and environmental models using decentralized Artificial Life entities. The results demonstrate a strong feasibility for the application of integrated VR and Artificial Life in solving a 10,000 year old mystery shrouding a submerged landscape in the Southern North Sea, off the east coast of the United Kingdom. Three experimental scenarios with dynamic, “artificial” vegetation are observed to grow, reproduce, and react to virtual environmental parameters in a way that mimics their physical counterparts. Through further experimentation and refinement of the Artificial Life rules, plus the integration of additional knowledge from subject matter experts in related scientific fields, a credible reconstruction of the ancient and, today, inaccessible landscape may be within our reach.
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