Online Gaming as Digital Heuristics The House of the Rhyta at Pseira

Main Article Content

Miriam G Clinton


While 3D modeling has only come into widespread archaeological use in recent years, it is hardly a new or untested approach in the study of architecture. Even so, archaeological 3D modeling has largely been limited to use in illustrations, rather than treated as a part of the scientific method. Using the case study of the Minoan House of the Rhyta at Pseira, this article discusses the results of applying 3D modeling as not only a visualization, but also a hypothesis testing tool.

In the summer of 2014, the Minoan Modeling Project undertook a new intensive architectural examination of the Minoan House of the Rhyta at Pseira. The project produced both state and reconstructed 3D models. The 3D reconstruction became the basis of an educational video game designed as a scientific tool to test architectural theories about the use of space. As gamers interact with and circulate through the various rooms in the House of the Rhyta, their movements are tracked and statistically compared with the results of more traditional methods of access and circulation pattern analysis. This article presents preliminary results of this crowdsourced online game study, in addition to discussing strengths and weaknesses of the technique as learned through the process of building the model and game.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Clinton, M. G. (2021). Online Gaming as Digital Heuristics: The House of the Rhyta at Pseira. Studies in Digital Heritage, 4(2), 160–184.
Special Issue "3D Methodologies in Mediterranean Archaeology"


I. Altman. 1975. The Environment and Social Behavior: Privacy, Personal Space, Territory, Crowding, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

N. Ashcraft and A.E. Scheflen. 1976. People Space: The Making and Breaking of Human Boundaries, Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.

Paul Åström and David S. Reese. 1990. Triton Shells in East Mediterranean Cults. Journal of Prehistoric Religion 3–4 (1989-90): 5-14.

Aryabrata Basu. 2018. Designing and evaluating ubiquitous wearable virtual reality. PhD diss., Univ of Georgia

Aryabrata Basu and Kyle Johnsen. Navigating a maze differently – a user study. arXiv preprint (May 2018). arXiv:1805.09454

Anna Bentkowska-Kafel. 2012. Processual Scholia: The Importance of Paradata in Heritage Visualization. In Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Hugh Denard, and Drew Baker, eds. Paradata and Transparency in Virtual Heritage. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing Group, 245–59.

Philip P. Betancourt. 2001. The Household Shrine in the House of the Rhyta at Pseira. In Robert Laffineur and Robin Hägg, eds. POTNIA: Deities and Religion in the Aegean Bronze Age (Aegaeum 22). Liège: Université de Liège, 145–49.

Philip P. Betancourt. 2007. Introduction to Aegean Art, Philadelphia, PA: INSTAP Academic Press.

Philip P. Betancourt. 2009. Pseira X: The Excavation of Block AF (Prehistory Monographs 28), Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.

Philip P. Betancourt, Eleni S. Banou, and Cheryl R. Floyd. 1997. Provincial LM III at Pseira, Crete. In Erik Hallager and Birgit Hallager eds. Late Minoan III Pottery: Chronology and Terminology. Acts of a Meeting Held at the Danish Institute at Athens, August 12–14, 1994 (Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens 1). Århus: Århus University Press, 57–75.

Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras. 1993. Excavations at Pseira, Crete, in 1991–92. American Journal of Archaeology 97, 2 (April 1993), 301–2.

Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras eds. 1995. Pseira I: The Minoan Buildings on the West Side of Area A (University Museum Monograph 90), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras eds. 1998. Pseira II: Building AC (the “Shrine”) and Other Buildings in Area A (University Museum Monograph 94). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Sandra Blakely. 2015. Human Geography, GIS Technology, and Ancient Mysteries: A Case Study from the Island of Samothrace. Getty Research Journal 7 (2015), 133–41.

Richard E. Blanton. 1994. Houses and Households: A Comparative Study, New York: Plenum Press.

Pierre Bourdieu. 1970. ‘The Berber house or the world reversed.’ Social Science Information 9.2 (April 1970): 151–70.

Erik Malcolm Champion. 2011. Playing with the Past, London: Springer.

Serge Chermayeff and Christopher Alexander. 1965. Community and Privacy: Toward a New Architecture of Humanism, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

John R.Clarke. 2014a. The Villa of Oplontis: A ‘born digital’ project. In Janet Delve and David Anderson, eds. Preserving Complex Digital Objects, London: Facet Publishing, 259–72.

John R. Clarke. 2014b. A Virtual Villa. Apollo 179, 617 (September 2014),48–53.

John R. Clarke. 2015. Retrieving the Decorative Program of Villa A ("of Poppaea") at Oplontis (Torre Annunziata, Italy): How Orphaned Fragments Find a Home in the Virtual-Reality 3D Model. In Sarah Lepinski and Susanna McFadden, eds. Beyond iconography: materials, methods, and meaning in ancient surface decoration, Boston: Archaeological Institute of America.

John R. Clarke and Nayla Kabazi Muntasser. 2014. Oplontis: Villa A (“of Poppaea”) at Torre Annunziata, Italy 1: The Ancient Setting and Modern Rediscovery, New York: American Council of Learned Societies.

Miriam G.Clinton. 2013. Access and Circulation Pattern Analysis in Neopalatial Architecture on Crete: A Methodology for Identifying Private Spaces. Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania.

Miriam G. Clinton. 2016. The Power of the Future: Re-analyzing the House of the Rhyta at Pseira. In Kostandinos Chalikias, Maggie Beeler, Ariel Pearce, and Steve Renette , eds. The Future of the Past: From Amphipolis to Mosul, Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 69–79.

Miriam G. Clinton, with contribution by Ansel MacLaughlin. 2020. The House of the Rhyta at Pseira: 3D Crowdsourcing in an Online Virtual Environment. In Philip Sapirstein and David Scahill, eds. New Directions and Paradigms for the Study of Greek Architecture, Boston: Brill, 258-273.

Costis Davaras. 2001. Comments on the Plateia Building. In Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras, eds. Pseira V: The Architecture of Pseira, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 79–88.

Heidi M.C. Diercx. 1995. Aspects of Economy and Technology at the Late Bronze Age Site of Pseira, Crete. Based on the Stone Tool Assemblage. Ex Scientia 1, 57–72.

H. Eiteljorg. 1998. Photorealistic Visualizations May Be Too Good. CSA Newsletter XI, 2 (Fall 1998). Accessed May 15, 2020.

Diane Favro. 2012. Se Non è Vero, è Ben Trovato (If Not True, it is Well Conceived): Digital Immersive Reconstructions of Historical Environments. In Special Issue on Architectural Representations, Spec. issue, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 71, 3 (September 2012), 273–77.

Cheryl R. Floyd. 1995. Fragments from Two Pithoi with Linear A Inscriptions from Pseira. Kadmos 34, 39–48.

Cheryl R. Floyd. 1997. LM IIIC Pottery on Pseira: Pirates, Traders, or Fishermen? American Journal of Archaeology 101, 2 (April 1997), 364.

Cheryl R. Floyd. 1998. Pseira III: The Plateia Building (University Museum Monograph 102). Edited by Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Cheryl R. Floyd, L. Onyshkevych, J. Beaudoin, and G. Mitrakis. 1995. “Excavations at Pseira, 1993–1994.” American Journal of Archaeology 99, 2 (April 1995), 313.

Maurizio Forte. 2008. Virtual Archaeology: Communication in 3D and Ecological Thinking. In Bernard Frischer and Anastasia Dakouri-Hild, eds. Beyond Illustration: 2D and 3D Digital Technology as Tools for Discovery in Archaeology (BAR-IS 1805), Oxford: Archaeopress, 20–34.

Maurizio Forte and Eva Pietroni. 2009. 3D Collaborative Environments in Archaeology: Experiencing the Reconstruction of the Past. International Journal of Architectural Computing 7, 1 (March 1997),:57–76.

Maurizio Forte and Alberti Siliotti eds. 1997. Virtual Archaeology: Re-Creating Ancient Worlds, New York: H.N. Abrams.

Bernard Frischer. 2008. From Digital Illustration to Digital Heuristics. In Bernard Frischer and Anastasia Dakouri-Hild, eds. Beyond Illustration: 2D and 3D Digital Technology as Tools for Discovery in Archaeology (BAR-IS 1805), Oxford: Archaeopress, v–xxiv.

Bernard Frischer. 2014. New Digital Simulation Studies on the Obelisk, Meridian, and Ara Pacis of Augustus. In Lothar Haselberger, ed. The Horologium of Augustus: Debate and Context (JRA Supplementary Series 99), Portsmouth, RI: JRA, 77–90.

Bernard Frischer and J. Fillwalk. 2012. The Digital Hadrian’s Villa Project: Using Virtual Worlds to Control Suspected Solar Alignments. In G. Guidi, ed. Proceedings of 2012: 18th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM 2012), Piscataway: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 49–56.

Bernard Frischer and J. Fillwalk. 2013. A Computer Simulation to Test the Buchner Thesis: The Relationship of the Ara Pacis and the Meridian in the Campus Martius, Rome. In Proceedings of the 2013 Digital Heritage International Conference (DigitalHeritage) 1, Piscataway: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 341–45.

Mark Getlein. 2020. Living with Art. 12th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Alyson A. Gill. 2009. Digitizing the Past: Charting New Courses in the Modeling of Virtual Landscapes. In Arne Robert Flaten and Alyson A. Gill, eds. Digital Crossroads: New Directions in 3D Architectural Modeling in the Humanities. Spec. issue of Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 25, 4, 313–32.

Glyn Goodrick and Mark Gillings. 2000. Constructs, Simulations and Hyperreal Worlds: The Role of Virtual Reality (VR) in Archaeological Research. In Gary R. Lock and Kayt Brown, eds. On the Theory and Practice of Archaeological Computing (University of Oxford Committee for Committee for Archaeology Monograph 51), Oxford: Oxbow Books, 41–58.

Julienne Hanson. 1998. Decoding Homes and Houses, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bill Hillier. 1996. Space is the Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bill Hillier and Julienne Hanson. 1984. The Social Logic of Space, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ian R. Hodder. 1986. Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ian R. Hodder. 1999. The Archaeological Process: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

R.W. Hutchinson. 1962. Prehistoric Crete. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Christopher Johanson. 2009. Visualizing History: Modeling in the Eternal City. Visual Resources 25, 4: 403–18.

Lilian Karali. 1999. Shells in Aegean Prehistory. Oxford: BAR International Series 761.

Susan Kent. 1990a. A Cross-cultural Study of Segmentation, Architecture, and the Use of Space. In Susan Kent , ed. Domestic Architecture and the Use of Space: An Interdisciplinary Cross-cultural Study, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 127–51.

Susan Kent. 1990b. Activity Areas and Architecture: An Interdisciplinary View of the Relationship between Use of Space and Domestic Built Environments. In Susan Kent , ed. Domestic Architecture and the Use of Space: An Interdisciplinary Cross-cultural Study, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–8.

M. Koch and M. Kaehler. 2010. Combining 3D Laser-Scanning and Close-Range Photogrammetry - An Approach to Exploit the Strength of Both Methods. In Bernard Frischer, ed. Making History Interactive: Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA). Proceedings of the 37th International Conference, Williamsburg, Virginia, United States of America, March 22-26, 2009 (BAR-IS 2079), Oxford: Archaeopress, 1–7.

Quentin Letesson. 2009. Du phenotype au genotype: analyse de la syntaxe spatiale en architecture minoenne (MMIIIB – MRIB), Louvain: Presses universitaires de Louvain.

M. Lo Brutto and P. Meli. 2012. Computer Vision Tools for 3D Modelling in Archaeology. In Marinos Ioannides, ed. Progress in Cultural Heritage Preservation: 4th International Conference, EuroMed 2012: Limassol, Cyprus, October 29-November 3, 2012 (International Journal of Heritage in the Digital Era Supplement 1), New York: Springer, 1–6.

Nanno Marinatos and Robin Hägg. 1986. On the Ceremonial Function of the Minoan Polythyron. Opusculos Atheniensis XVI, 6: 57-73.

Spyridon Marinatos. 1960. Crete and Mycenae. New York: H. N. Abrams.

R.J. Maxwell. 1983. Contexts of Behavior: Anthropological Dimensions, Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.

John C. McEnroe. 1982. A Typology of Minoan Neopalatial Houses. American Journal of Archaeology 86, 1 (January 1982): 3–19.

John C. McEnroe. 2001. Pseira V: The Architecture of Pseira (University Museum Monograph 109), Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

L. Mosaker. 2001. Visualizing Historical Knowledge Using Virtual Reality Technology. Digital Creativity 12, 1: 15–25.

Brandon R. Olson, Ryan A. Placchetti, Jamie Quartermaine, and Ann E. Killebrew. 2013. The Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project (Akko, Israel): Assessing the Suitability of Multi-Scale 3D Field Recording in Archaeology. Journal of Field Archaeology 38, 3: 244–62.

Rachel Opitz and W. Fred Limp. 2015. Recent Developments in High-Density Survey and Measurement (HDSM) for Archaeology: Implications for Practice and Theory. Annual Review of Anthropology, 44: 347-64.

Eleftheria Paliou. 2011a. The Communicative Potential of Theran Murals in Late Bronze Age Akrotiri: Applying Viewshed Analysis in 3D Townscapes. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 30, 3 (August 2011): 247–72.

Eleftheria Paliou. 2011b. Three-Dimensional Visibility Analysis of Architectural Spaces: Iconography and Visibility of the Wall Paintings of Xeste 3 (Late Bronze Age Akrotiri). Journal of Archaeological Science 38, 2 (February 2011): 375–86.

Clairy Palyvou. 1987. Circulatory Patterns in Minoan Architecture. In Robin Hägg and Nanno Marinatos, eds. The Function of the Minoan Palaces: Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens, 10-16 June 1984, Stockholm: Paul Åströms Förlag, 195–202.

Clairy Palyvou. 2004. Outdoor Space in Minoan Architecture: "Community and Privacy." In Gerald Cadogan, Eleni Hatzaki, and Antonis Vasilakis, eds. Knossos: Palace, City, State: Proceedings of the Conference in Herakleion Organised by the British School at Athens and the 23rd Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Herakleion, in November 2000, for the Centenary of Sir Arthur Evans’s Excavations at Knossos (BSA Studies 12), London: The British School at Athens, 207–17.

Clairy Palyvou. 2005. Akrotiri, Thera: An Architecture of Affluence 3,500 Years Old (Prehistory Monographs 15), Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.

A. Pariente. 1992. Chronique des Fouilles en 1991, Pseira. Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 116: 934–35.

T.S. Pfeiffer. 1980. Behavior and Interaction in Built Space. Built Environment 6: 35-50.

M. Pollefeys, R. Koch, M. Vergauwen, and L. Van Gool. 2000. Automated Reconstruction of 3D Scenes from Sequences of Images. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 55, 4: 251–67.

Donald Preziosi. 1983. Minoan Architectural Design: Formation and Signification, Berlin: Mouton.

Donald Preziosi and Louise A. Hitchcock. 1999. Aegean Art and Architecture, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Donald Sanders. 1990. Behavioral Conventions and Archaeology: Methods for the Analysis of Ancient Architecture. In Susan Kent, ed. Domestic Architecture and the Use of Space: An Interdisciplinary Cross-cultural Study, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 43–72.

C. Santagati, L. Inzerillo, and F. Di Paola. 2013. Image-Based Modeling Techniques for Architectural Heritage 3D Digitalization: Limits and Potentialities. International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences XL-5/W2: 555–60.

Maria C. Shaw and Joseph W. Shaw, eds. 2012. House X at Kommos: A Minoan Mansion Near the Sea: Part 1. Architecture, Stratigraphy, and Selected Finds. Philadelphia, PA: INSTAP Academic Press.

A. Scheflen. 1976. Some Territorial Layouts in the United States. In A. Rapoport, ed. The Mutual Interaction of People and Their Built Environment: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, The Hague: Mouton, 177-221.

Jeffrey S. Soles. 2003. Mochlos IA: Period III. Neopalatial Settlement on the Coast: The Artisans’ Quarter and the Farmhouse at Chalinomouri, Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. 1988. The Social Structure of the Roman House. Papers of the British School at Rome 56: 43–97.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. 1994. Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

R. Wulf, A. Sedlazeck, and R. Koch. 2012. 3D Reconstruction of Archaeological Trenches from Photographs. In Scientific Computing and Cultural Heritage, Berlin: Springer, 273–81.

Stephanos Xanthoudides. 1922. Μινωικòν μέγαρον Νίρου. Archaiologike Ephemeris (1922): 1-25.