Art and Archaeology: Understanding Drawing within Archaeological Contexts


  • Hailey Kennedy MacEwan University


Observational skills provide the foundation for many archaeological techniques. In particular, drawing skills were once seen as critical in archaeology and so they were taught frequently within archaeology classes. Drawing can take a variety of forms, from using a pencil and paper to heavy duty drawing tablets used for animation; however, no matter the materials used to draw and sketch, observing is critical for producing an accurate drawing. The widespread use and adoption of digital photography and image-making has resulted in a decline in the use of drawing within archaeology, and such skills are now only briefly considered in archaeological teaching as practical and worthwhile endeavours. The analytical importance of drawing within archaeology is not usually considered beyond its role in providing visual representations for readers of archaeological reports or through its informal use by researchers in the field. This paper considers the role drawing can have within archaeology and suggests that drawing can and should be used as a tool to aid in critical observation. Two main sources of data were collected for this study: a collection of interviews with specialists (archaeologists, artists, etc.); and an experiment involving eight individuals to test whether critical observation skills were improved if individuals are provided instruction in basic drawing techniques. The results of this study suggest that drawing can be a useful mode of observation that generates data for archaeological interpretation rather than simply being a means of representing data.

Department: Anthropology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hugh McKenzie