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A model chain to simulate daylight in historic built environments

Publication Type:



Widening Horizons: 27 Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Kiel, Germany (2021)


archaeology, building history, daylight modelling, daylight simulation, reconstruction, visual perception


The simulation of daylight in buildings of the past, based on archaeological record, and its interpretation in the context of human history is a field of interdisciplinary research. It relies on a consecutive combination of models, that emerge from different disciplines and are possibly based on diverging assumptions. Each of these models comes with its particular capabilities, limitations and uncertainties. This contribution distinguishes four major model domains:
1. Architectural reconstruction reflects historic practice and provides a geometric representation of the evaluated building in the past.
2. Models of building materials describe their interaction with light, e. g. scattering and absorption. They cannot just mimic the characteristics of an archaeological find but must deduce its state in the past, taking into account physical material properties and historic production methods.
3. Environmental conditions are defined by sky models. They must reflect the luminance distribution of the sky hemisphere and can integrate effects of external occlusion and reflection.
4. Perception models bridge the gap between the results of light simulation, e. g. in terms of radiometric or photometric quantities, and the subjective response of a human observer for the interpretation in the context of historic research.
For each of these four model domains, an example is introduced and critically discussed. Structuring the interdisciplinary research along a chain of distinct models is proposed to foster the discourse between the disciplines. This shall provide a better understanding of the potential and uncertainties of daylight simulation in the research of production and perception of historic built environments.