International Context



Virtual Archaeology and Cultural Heritage International Campus, SEAV TRAINING, is created to answer the need of an specific training program, due to advances in technology in recent years have substantially changed the research, documentation and dissemination of Cultural Heritage.


FOROThe International Forum of Virtual Archaeology, created by initiative of SEAV and formed by a large group of international experts in this field, have debated, discussed and agreed for four years basic principles to standardize the practice of this new discipline, PRINCIPLES OF SEVILLE, that complements The London Charter.


Having established the basics of Virtual Archaeology, PRINCIPLES OF SEVILLE, the creation of International Campus SEAV TRAINING, has been the favorite subject of the SEAV, to offer a training program, non-existing in the academic training, current and consistent with the precepts of the scientific community.



International Charter

for the computer-based visualization of Cultural Heritage

The London Charter 2009

Draft 2.1




While computer-based visualisation methods are now employed in a wide range of contexts to assist in the research, communication and preservation of cultural heritage, a set of principles is needed that will ensure that digital heritage visualisation is, and is seen to be, at least as intellectually and technically rigorous as longer established cultural heritage research and communication methods. At the same time, such principles must reflect the distinctive properties of computer-based visualisation technologies and methods.


Numerous articles, documents, including the AHDS Guides to Good Practice for CAD (2002) and Virtual Reality (2002) and initiatives, including the Virtual Archaeology Special Interest Group (VASIG) and the Cultural Virtual Reality Organisation (CVRO) and others have underlined the importance of ensuring both that computer-based visualisation methods are applied with scholarly rigour, and that the outcomes of research that include computer-based visualisation should accurately convey to users the status of the knowledge that they represent, such as distinctions between evidence and hypothesis, and between different levels of probability.


The London Charter seeks to capture, and to build, a consensus on these and related issues in a way that demands wide recognition and an expectation of compliance within relevant subject communities. In doing so, the Charter aims to enhance the rigour with which computer-based visualisation methods and outcomes are used and evaluated in heritage contexts, thereby promoting understanding and recognition of such methods and outcomes.


The Charter defines principles for the use of computer-based visualisation methods in relation to intellectual integrity, reliability, documentation, sustainability and access.


The Charter recognises that the range of available computer-based visualisation methods is constantly increasing, and that these methods can be applied to address an equally expanding range of research aims. The Charter therefore does not seek to prescribe specific aims or methods, but rather establishes those broad principles for the use, in research and communication of cultural heritage, of computer-based visualisation upon which the intellectual integrity of such methods and outcomes depend.


The Charter is concerned with the research and dissemination of cultural heritage across academic, educational, curatorial and commercial domains. It has relevance, therefore, for those aspects of the entertainment industry involving the reconstruction or evocation of cultural heritage, but not for the use of computer-based visualisation in, for example, contemporary art, fashion, or design. As the aims that motivate the use of visualisation methods vary widely from domain to domain, Principle 1: “Implementation”, signals the importance of devising detailed guidelines appropriate to each community of practice.
The London Charter seeks to establish principles for the use of computer-based visualisation methods and outcomes in the research and communication of cultural heritage in order to:
Provide a benchmark having widespread recognition among stakeholders.
Promote intellectual and technical rigour in digital heritage visualisation.
Ensure that computer-based visualisation processes and outcomes can be properly understood and evaluated by users
Enable computer-based visualisation authoritatively to contribute to the study, interpretation and management of cultural heritage assets.
Ensure access and sustainability strategies are determined and applied.
Offer a robust foundation upon which communities of practice can build detailed London Charter Implementation Guidelines.


Principle 1: Implementation
The principles of the London Charter are valid wherever computer-based visualisation is applied to the research or dissemination of cultural heritage.
1.1    Each community of practice, whether academic, educational, curatorial or commercial, should develop London Charter Implementation Guidelines that cohere with its own aims, objectives and methods.
1.2    Every computer-based visualisation heritage activity should develop, and monitor the application of, a London Charter Implementation Strategy.
In collaborative activities, all participants whose role involves either directly or indirectly contributing to the visualisation process should be made aware of the principles of the London Charter, together with relevant Charter Implementation Guidelines, and to assess their implications for the planning, documentation and dissemination of the project as a whole.
1.4    The costs of implementing such a strategy should be considered in relation to the added intellectual, explanatory and/or economic value of producing outputs that demonstrate a high level of intellectual integrity.


Principle 2: Aims and Methods
A computer-based visualisation method should normally be used only when it is the most appropriate available method for that purpose.
2.1    It should not be assumed that computer-based visualisation is the most appropriate means of addressing all cultural heritage research or communication aims.
2.2    A systematic, documented evaluation of the suitability of each method to each aim should be carried out, in order to ascertain what, if any, type of computer-based visualisation is likely to prove most appropriate.
2.3    While it is recognised that, particularly in innovative or complex activities, it may not always be possible to determine, a priori, the most appropriate method, the choice of computer-based visualisation method  (e.g. more or less photo-realistic, impressionistic or schematic; representation of hypotheses or of the available evidence; dynamic or static) or the decision to develop a new method, should be based on an evaluation of the likely success of each approach in addressing each aim.


Principle 3: Research Sources
In order to ensure the intellectual integrity of computer-based visualisation methods and outcomes, relevant research sources should be identified and evaluated in a structured and documented way.
3.1.   In the context of the Charter, research sources are defined as all information, digital and non-digital, considered during, or directly influencing, the creation of computer-based visualisation outcomes.
3.2    Research sources should be selected, analysed and evaluated with reference to current understandings and best practice within communities of practice.
3.3    Particular attention should be given to the way in which visual sources may be affected by ideological, historical, social, religious and aesthetic and other such factors.


Principle 4: Documentation
Sufficient information should be documented and disseminated to allow computer-based visualisation methods and outcomes to be understood and evaluated in relation to the contexts and purposes for which they are deployed.
Enhancing Practice
4.1    Documentation strategies should be designed and resourced in such a way that they actively enhance the visualisation activity by encouraging, and helping to structure, thoughtful practice.
4.2    Documentation strategies should be designed to enable rigorous, comparative analysis and evaluation of computer-based visualisations, and to facilitate the recognition and addressing of issues that visualisation activities reveal.
4.3    Documentation strategies may assist in the management of Intellectual Property Rights or privileged information.
Documentation of Knowledge Claims
4.4    It should be made clear to users what a computer-based visualisation seeks to represent, for example the existing state, an evidence-based restoration or an hypothetical reconstruction of a cultural heritage object or site, and the extent and nature of any factual uncertainty.
 Documentation of Research Sources
4.5    A complete list of research sources used and their provenance should be disseminated.
Documentation of Process (Paradata)
4.6    Documentation of the evaluative, analytical, deductive, interpretative and creative decisions made in the course of computer-based visualisation should be disseminated in such a way that the relationship between research sources, implicit knowledge, explicit reasoning, and visualisation-based outcomes can be understood.
Documentation of Methods
4.7    The rationale for choosing a computer-based visualisation method, and for rejecting other methods, should be documented and disseminated to allow the activity’s methodology to be evaluated and to inform subsequent activities.
4.8    A description of the visualisation methods should be disseminated if these are not likely to be widely understood within relevant communities of practice.
4.9    Where computer-based visualisation methods are used in interdisciplinary contexts that lack a common set of understandings about the nature of research questions, methods and outcomes, project documentation should be undertaken in such a way that it assists in articulating such implicit knowledge and in identifying the different lexica of participating members from diverse subject communities.
Documentation of Dependency Relationships
4.10  Computer-based visualisation outcomes should be disseminated in such a way that the nature and importance of significant, hypothetical dependency relationships between elements can be clearly identified by users and the reasoning underlying such hypotheses understood.
Documentation Formats and Standards
4.11  Documentation should be disseminated using the most effective available media, including graphical, textual, video, audio, numerical or combinations of the above.
4.12  Documentation should be disseminated sustainably with reference to relevant standards and ontologies according to best practice in relevant communities of practice and in such a way that facilitates its inclusion in relevant citation indexes.


Principle 5: Sustainability
Strategies should be planned and implemented to ensure the long-term sustainability of cultural heritage-related computer-based visualisation outcomes and documentation, in order to avoid loss of this growing part of human intellectual, social, economic and cultural heritage.
5.1    The most reliable and sustainable available form of archiving computer-based visualisation outcomes, whether analogue or digital, should be identified and implemented.
5.2    Digital preservation strategies should aim to preserve the computer-based visualisation data, rather than the medium on which they were originally stored, and also information sufficient to enable their use in the future, for example through migration to different formats or software emulation.
5.3    Where digital archiving is not the most reliable means of ensuring the long-term survival of a computer-based visualisation outcome, a partial, two-dimensional record of a computer-based visualisation output, evoking as far as possible the scope and properties of the original output, should be preferred to the absence of a record.
5.4    Documentation strategies should be designed to be sustainable in relation to available resources and prevailing working practices.


Principle 6: Access
The creation and dissemination of computer-based visualisation should be planned in such a way as to ensure that maximum possible benefits are achieved for the study, understanding, interpretation, preservation and management of cultural heritage.
6.1    The aims, methods and dissemination plans of computer-based visualisation should reflect consideration of how such work can enhance access to cultural heritage that is otherwise inaccessible due to health and safety, disability, economic, political, or environmental reasons, or because the object of the visualisation is lost, endangered, dispersed, or has been destroyed, restored or reconstructed.
6.2    Projects should take cognizance of the types and degrees of access that computer-based visualisation can uniquely provide to cultural heritage stakeholders, including the study of change over time, magnification, modification, manipulation of virtual objects, embedding of datasets, instantaneous global distribution.


APPENDIX – Glossary
The following definitions explain how terms are used within this document. They are not intended to be prescriptive beyond that function.


Computer-based visualisation: The process of representing information visually with the aid of computer technologies.
Computer-based visualisation methodThe systematic application, usually in a research context, of computer-based visualisation in order to address identified aims.
Computer-based visualisation outcomeAn outcome of computer-based visualisation, including but not limited to digital models, still images, animations and physical models.
Cultural heritageThe Charter adopts a wide definition of this term, encompassing all domains of human activity which are concerned with the understanding of communication of the material and intellectual culture. Such domains include, but are not limited to, museums, art galleries, heritage sites, interpretative centres, cultural heritage research institutes, arts and humanities subjects within higher education institutions, the broader educational sector, and tourism.
Dependency relationshipA dependent relationship between the properties of elements within digital models, such that a change in one property will necessitate change in the dependent properties. (For instance, a change in the height of a door will necessitate a corresponding change in the height of the doorframe.)
Intellectual transparencyThe provision of information, presented in any medium or format, to allow users to understand the nature and scope of “knowledge claim” made by a computer-based visualisation outcome.
ParadataInformation about human processes of understanding and interpretation of data objects. Examples of paradata include descriptions stored within a structured dataset of how evidence was used to interpret an artefact, or a comment on methodological premises within a research publication. It is closely related, but somewhat different in emphasis, to “contextual metadata”, which tend to communicate interpretations of an artefact or collection, rather than the process through which one or more artefacts were processed or interpreted.
Research sourcesAll information, digital and non-digital, considered during, or directly influencing, the creation of the computer-based visualisation outcomes.
Subject communityA group of researchers generally defined by a discipline (e.g. Archaeology, Classics, Sinology, Egyptology) and sharing a broadly-defined understanding of what constitute valid research questions, methods and outputs within their subject area.
Sustainability strategy: A strategy to ensure that some meaningful record of computer-based visualisation processes and outcomes is preserved for future generations.





International Principles of Virtual Archaeology

The Seville Principles 2011

Final Draft




Today, the worldwide application of computer-based visualisation in the field of archaeological heritage may be described as full of “lights and shadows”. The spectacular growth of cultural tourism and the amazing technological advances in recent years have led to the development and implementation of a myriad of projects to investigate, preserve, interpret and present various elements of archaeological heritage using computer-based visualisation. These projects have demonstrated not only the extraordinary potential of computer-based visualisation but also its many weaknesses and inconsistencies. Therefore, there is a clear need for a theoretical debate with practical implications to enable heritage managers use the best that new technology can offer them in this area while minimizing its most controversial applications. In short, some basic principles must be established to govern practices in this growing field.


The London Charter ( is currently the most advanced international document in this direction. Its various updates reveal the overwhelming need to find a document with recommendations that can serve as a basis for designing new projects with greater rigour in the field of cultural heritage, but also to propose new recommendations and guidance tailored to the specific needs of each branch of learning and community of experts. For this reason, the objectives set out in The London Charter aim to “offer a robust foundation upon which communities of practice can build detailed London Charter Implementation Guidelines”. And we must not forget the immeasurable scope of the concept of Cultural Heritage, which encompasses such broad areas as monumental, ethnographic, documentary, industrial, artistic, archaeological and oral heritage.


The London Charter takes full account of the Cultural Heritage as a concept, and therefore the specific needs required by each of its constituent parts. For this reason, the Preamble to the London Charter recognises these needs: “as the aims that motivate the use of visualisation methods vary widely from domain to domain, Principle 1: “Implementation”, signals the importance of devising detailed guidelines appropriate to each community of practice”. Principle 1.1 recommends: “Each community of practice, whether academic, educational, curatorial or commercial, should develop London Charter Implementation Guidelines that cohere with its own aims, objectives and methods”. It therefore seems obvious that, given the importance of archaeological heritage as part of cultural heritage, and since many recognise the existence of a community of experts who focus specifically on the concept of Virtual Archaeology, consideration must be given to the preparation of guidelines, documents and recommendations that even following the general guidelines established by the London Charter, take into account the specific nature of Virtual Archaeology.


The principles discussed below aim to increase the conditions of applicability of the London Charter in order to improve its implementation specifically in the field of archaeological heritage, including industrial archaeological heritage, simplifying and organising its bases sequentially, while at the same time offering new recommendations taking into account the specific nature of archaeological heritage in relation to cultural heritage.




Virtual archaeology: the scientific discipline that seeks to research and develop ways of using computer-based visualisation for the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage.
Archaeological heritage: the set of tangible assets, both movable and immovable, irrespective of whether they have been extracted or not and whether they are on the surface or underground, on land or in water, which together with their context, which will also be considered a part of archaeological heritage, serve as a historical source of knowledge on the history of humankind. The distinguishing feature of these elements, which were or have been abandoned by the cultures that produced them, is that they may be studied, recovered or located using archaeological methodology as the primary method of research, using mainly excavation and surveying or prospection techniques, without compromising the possibility of using other complementary methods for knowledge.
Comprehensive management: this includes inventories, surveys, excavation work, documentation, research, maintenance, conservation, preservation, restoration, interpretation, presentation, access and public use of the material remains of the past.
Virtual restoration: this involves using a virtual model to reorder available material remains in order to visually recreate something that existed in the past. Thus, virtual restoration includes virtual anastylosis.
Virtual anastylosis: this involves restructuring existing but dismembered parts in a virtual model.
Virtual reconstruction: this involves using a virtual model to visually recover a building or object made by humans at a given moment in the past from available physical evidence of these buildings or objects, scientifically-reasonable comparative inferences and in general all studies carried out by archaeologists and other experts in relation to archaeological and historical science.
Virtual recreation: this involves using a virtual model to visually recover an archaeological site at a given moment in the past, including material culture (movable and immovable heritage), environment, landscape, customs, and general cultural significance.




Since the theoretical framework for the Seville Principles is the London Charter, this document would adopt all the objectives approved by the Advisory Board of the London Charter. These general objectives should be accompanied by some new objectives, namely:
Generate easily understandable and applicable criteria for the whole community of experts, including indistinctly computer experts, archaeologists, architects, engineers, general managers or specialists in the field.
Establish guidelines aimed at giving the public a greater understanding and better appreciation of the ongoing work of archaeology.
Establish principles and criteria for measuring the quality of projects carried out in the field of virtual archaeology.
Promote the responsible use of new technologies for the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage.
Improve current archaeological heritage research, conservation and dissemination processes using new technologies.
Open new doors for the application of digital methods and techniques in archaeological research, conservation and dissemination.
Raise awareness of the international scientific community of the prevailing need to make concerted efforts worldwide in the growing field of virtual archaeology.




Principle 1: Interdisciplinarity
Any project involving the use of new technologies, linked to computer-based visualisation in the field of archaeological heritage, whether for research, documentation, conservation or dissemination, must be supported by a team of professionals from different branches of knowledge.
1.1 Given the complex nature of computer-based visualisation of archaeological heritage, it can not be addressed only by a single type of expert but needs the cooperation of a large number of specialists (archaeologists, computer scientists, historians, architects, engineers etc.).
1.2 A truly interdisciplinary work involves the regular and fluid exchange of ideas and views among specialists from different fields. Work divided into watertight compartments can never be considered interdisciplinary even with the participation of experts from different disciplines.
1.3 Among the experts who must collaborate in this interdisciplinary model, it is essential to ensure the specific presence of archaeologists and historians, preferably those who are or were responsible for the scientific management of the excavation work or archaeological remains to be reconstructed.


Principle 2: Purpose
Prior to the development of any computer-based visualisation, the ultimate purpose or goal of our work must always be completely clear. Therefore, different levels of detail, resolutions and accuracies might be required.
2.1 Any proposed computer-based visualisation will always aim to improve aspects related to the research, conservation or dissemination of archaeological heritage. The overall aim of the project must be encompassed within one of these categories (research, conservation and/or dissemination). The category concerning dissemination includes both educational projects, whether formal or informal education, and recreational projects (cultural tourism)
2.2 In addition to clarifying the main purpose of computer-based visualisation, more specific objectives must always be defined in order to obtain more precise knowledge of the problem or problems to be resolved.
2.3 Computer-based visualisation must be always at the service of archaeological heritage rather than archaeological heritage being at the service of computer-based visualisation. The main objective of applying new technologies in the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage must be to satisfy the real needs of archaeologists, curators, restorers, museographers, managers and/or other professionals in the field of heritage and not vice-versa.
2.4 Ultimately, the main purpose of virtual archaeology will always be to serve society as a whole and contribute to increase the human knowledge.


Principle 3: Complementarity
The application of computer-based visualisation for the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage must be treated as a complementary and not alternative tool to other more traditional but equally effective management instruments.
3.1 Computer-based visualisation should not aspire to replace other methods and techniques employed for the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage (e.g. virtual restoration should not aspire to replace real restoration, just as virtual visits should not aspire to replace real visits).
3.2 Computer-based visualisation should seek forms of collaboration with other methods and techniques of a different nature to help improve current archaeological heritage research, conservation and dissemination processes. To do so, compliance with “Principle 1: Interdisciplinarity” will be fundamental.
3.3. Nevertheless, computer-based visualisations might be an alternative approach when original archaeological remains have been destroyed (e.g. due to the construction of large infrastructures), are placed in areas with difficult accessibility (e.g. without roads) or at risk of deterioration due to the huge influx of tourists (e.g. rock paintings).


Principle 4: Authenticity
Computer-based visualisation normally reconstructs or recreates historical buildings, artifacts and environments as we believe they were in the past. For that reason, it should always be possible to distinguish what is real, genuine or authentic from what is not. In this sense, authenticity must be a permanent operational concept in any virtual archaeology project.
4.1 Since archaeology is complex and not an exact and irrefutable science, it must be openly committed to making alternative virtual interpretations provided they afford the same scientific validity. When that equality does not exist, only the main hypothesis will be endorsed.
4.2 When performing virtual restorations or reconstructions, these must explicitly or through additional interpretations show the different levels of accuracy on which the restoration or reconstruction is based.
4.3 In so far as many archaeological remains have been and are being restored or reconstructed, computer-based visualisation should really help both professionals and public to differentiate clearly among: remains that have been conserved “in situ”; remains that have been returned to their original position (real anastylosis); areas that have been partially or completely rebuilt on the original remains; and finally, areas that have been virtually restored or reconstructed.


Principle 5: Historical rigour
To achieve optimum levels of historical rigour and veracity, any form of computer-based visualisation of the past must be supported by solid research, and historical and archaeological documentation.
5.1 The historical rigour of any computer-based visualisation of the past will depend on both the rigour with which prior archaeological research has been performed and the rigour with which that information is used to create the virtual model.
5.2 All historical phases recorded during archaeological research are extremely valuable. Thus, a rigorous approach would not be one that shows only the time of splendour of reconstructed or recreated archaeological remains but rather one that shows all the phases, including periods of decline. Nor should it display an idyllic image of the past with seemingly newly-constructed buildings, people who look like models, etc., but rather a real image, i.e. with buildings in varying states of conservation, people of different sizes and weights, etc.
5.3 The environment, landscape or context associated with archaeological remains is as important as the ruin itself. Charcoal, paleobotanical, paleozoological and physical paleoanthropological research must serve as a basis for conducting rigorous virtual recreations of landscape and context. They cannot systematically show lifeless cities, lonely buildings or dead landscapes, because this is an historical falsehood.
5.4 Archaeological heritage recording is extremely important not only for archiving, documentation, analyses and dissemination but for management. New techniques such as photogrammetry or laser scanners can be used to increase the quality of the scientific documentation. In the way that better metric documentation of archaeological heritage is carried out higher will be the chance to monitor and obtain historically and valuable replicas.


Principle 6: Efficiency
The concept of efficiency applied to the field of virtual archaeology depends inexorably on achieving appropriate economic and technological sustainability. Using fewer resources to achieve steadily more and better results is the key to efficiency.
6.1 Any project that involves the use of computer-based visualisation in the field of archaeological heritage must pre-screen the economic and technological maintenance needs that will be generated once installed and operative.
6.2 Priority must be given to systems that may initially require high investments but long term profit, with minimum maintenance cost and high reliability, i.e. low-consumption resistant, easy to repair or modify systems will be preferred.
6.3 Whenever possible, draw on the results obtained by previous visualisation projects, avoiding duplicity, i.e. performing the same work twice.


Principle 7: Scientific transparency
All computer-based visualisation must be essentially transparent, i.e. testable by other researchers or professionals, since the validity, and therefore the scope, of the conclusions produced by such visualisation will depend largely on the ability of others to confirm or refute the results obtained.
7.1 It is clear that all computer-based visualisation involves a large amount of scientific research. Consequently, to achieve scientific and academic rigour in virtual archaeology projects it is essential to prepare documentary bases in which to gather and present transparently the entire work process: objectives, methodology, techniques, reasoning, origin and characteristics of the sources of research, results and conclusions.
7.2 Without prejudice to the creation of such databases it is essential to promote the publication of the results of virtual archaeological projects in journals, books, reports and editorial media, both scientific and popular science, for information, review and consultation of the international scientific community and society in general.
7.3 The incorporation of metadata and paradata is crucial to ensure scientific transparency of any virtual archaeology project. Paradata and metadata should be clear, concise and easily available. In addition, it should provide as much information as possible. The scientific community should contribute with international standardization of metadata and paradata.
7.4 In any case, and in general, the registration and organisation of all documentation relating to virtual archaeological projects will be based on the “Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites” ratified by the 11th ICOMOS General Assembly in 1996.
7.5 In the interests of scientific transparency, it is necessary to create a large globally-accessible database with projects that offer optimum levels of quality (Art 8.4), without undermining the creation of national or regional databases of this type.


Principle 8: Training and evaluation
Virtual archaeology is a scientific discipline related to the comprehensive management of archaeological heritage that has its own specific language and techniques. Like any other academic discipline, it requires specific training and evaluation programmes.
8.1 High-level postgraduate training programmes must be promoted to strengthen training and specialisation of a sufficient number of qualified professionals in this field.
8.2 When computer-based visualisations are designed as instruments for edutainment and knowledge of the general public, the most appropriate method of evaluation will be visitors’ studies.
8.3 When computer-based visualisations are intended to serve as an instrument for archaeological research and conservation, the most appropriate archaeological evaluation method will be testing by a representative number of end users, i.e. professionals.
8.4 The final quality of any computer-based visualisation must be evaluated based on the rigour of the measures and not the spectacularity of its results. Compliance with all the principles will determine whether the end result of a computer-based visualisation can be considered or not “top quality”.