Archaeology of the military orders in Castilla-La Mancha and the virtual reconstruction of its heritage

Jaime García Carpintero López de Mota, David Gallego Valle


Extended Abstract:

The objective of this paper is to show the virtual archaeology as one of the methodologies applicated in the research line “Archaeology of the military orders” developed for some years by the University of Castilla-La Mancha in collaboration with the Fundación Castillo de la Estrella.

The military orders are very important institutions for the study of the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula. Because of that, there is a rich literature which approaches many aspects of these institutions: their origins and evolution; organisation; economic dimension; social reality... In contrast, the studies which have focused on the heritage linked to these orders have not had the same degree of development. This lack has motivated the creation of this important research line, where several specialists from different disciplines such as history, archaeology, architecture or restoration try to focus on the research of the military orders heritage, mainly in the region of Castilla-La Mancha. Thus, our research line is based on an interdisciplinary methodology, combining traditional practice with new technologies, like the virtual archaeology, which is described as the “using computer-based  visualisation  for  the  comprehensive  management  of  archaeological  heritage” (Principios de Sevilla, 2012).

Virtual archaeology as a research methodology

There are several applications for the virtual archaeology, but we could summarize them in three: research, conservation and restoration, and communication. In this paper, we focused on the first of them. We have worked with virtual archaeology in several cases such as the Castle of La Estrella (Montiel, Ciudad Real), the fortress and priory of Uclés (Uclés, Cuenca) or the hospital of Santiago of Alarcón (Alarcón, Cuenca), and we can say that this methodology has contributed to progress in the knowledge of all the elements which have been recreated. In the creation process of a virtual model, it is necessary to collect all information and data as are possible of the element on which we work. In this process, a lot of questions about several aspects appears, and we must try to find responses. In this way, we discover things which probably never would have been approached without this process. Furthermore, the virtual archaeology is an excellent method to sketch and discuss different hypothesis. It is a visual language with whom the specialists could show their ideas as support of the traditional text formats or other graphics sources as photos or plans.


Our workflow is similar toot her projects of virtual archaeology.  Before to start to work, is important to think about the objective of the model. For example, there are a lot of differences between a simple model to sketch the possible spatial disposition of a building in the research discussion, and a recreation to show to the public. Then, we can start to work in a process which can be summarized in these steps:

  • Compilation of all the documents, information and data as are possible about the element to recreate.

  • Discussion about several aspects of the model as the plan, materials, constructive technics, decoration, landscape, etc. Is interesting to use sketches or drawings before starting to work in the 3D model.

  • Design of the 3D model starting with the general aspects as the spatial disposition of the different elements, its size or the main details, and after that, work with the specific elements, decorations or contextual items (in recreations).

  • Texturize the different objects of the model. It is important to work with the correct materials. In this way, we try to use the real textures of the archaeological elements when we have them.

  • Integrate the model in a correct context: topography, landscape, people and animals, furniture, etc. These aspects will be present with a different degree of detail depending on the objective of the virtual model.

  • The last step is the creation of various sources as images, videos, interactive application, etc

  • To preserve the scientific transparency is important to show the degree of evidence of the different elements of the model. An option is to use a colour scale like the one which has been developed by Aparicio & Figueiredo (2016) which reflects the origin of the data and the degree of historical and archaeological evidence that we have.

It is important to point out that the discussion between the specialists must be present in all these steps.


The virtual archaeology is a growing methodology in the heritage management sphere. As a communication tool, it is an excellent language to show ideas to the general and the specialised public. But this has many possibilities in other fields such as conservation and restoration, and research. As with any other methodology, it is necessary to create scientific criteria and rules for it use, a process which has already started with the creation of the Seville Principles. Now, is the turn of the researches and heritage specialists to do a correct use of this tool and develop its multiple possibilities.


virtual archaeology; medieval archaeology; 3D reconstruction; historical-archaeological evidence; research; new technologies

Full Text:



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