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Analysis and Reconstruction of Impermanent Structures of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Glenn Darrington
Thesis: May 1994
Chair: Hamilton
Nautical Archaeology Program


Impermanent architecture was a major technology used to construct shelter in the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries. Why these construction methods were employed instead of more permanent ones is a question historical archaeologists have been trying to answer since the 1970s. Because of their impermanent nature, only a small number of 17th and 19th century structures have survived, creating a gap in the archaeological record. This missing data must be replaced with other sources of information, such as carpentry handbooks of the period and historical accounts that describe the form and function of these dwellings.

The use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology, combined with a knowledge of mpermanent building techniques assists in recording, manipulating, and displaying architectural data. This method has been used to reconstruct three historic buildings. Each of these structures represents a stage in the settlement process which was used by early colonists to survive and succeed in the New World.

Earlier methods of recording site data have been compared with more modern methods possible with CAD technology. These new methods have shown that more information can be gathered, manipulated, and displayed than was previously possible. Computer Aided Design technology has opened new doors of opportunity for researchers who try and recreate the historic pasts.

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