Paul Docherty

: Digital Archaeologist :

: 3D Digital Historical Reconstruction :

: Researcher :

About Me

My name is Paul Docherty and I am from the north east of England. I have always been fascinated in history and past cultures. It is fair to say that all of my interests and personal projects have had a foot somewhere in the past. Some examples include the 3D digital reconstruction of medieval and ancient structures, historical cartography and the genealogical and heraldic studies of medieval Ireland. My working life did not begin in this field however, so this page gives an outline of my career to date, my interests and future direction.

My most accomplished project is the digital reconstruction of the 18th Dynasty Egyptian city of Tel el’Amarna ( This work has been showcased in a number of documentaries commissioned for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, Channel 5 and the BBC. The model has been published in two National Geographic magazines as well as within several books and novels. Scenes of the work have featured during the performance of ‘Akhnaten’ by Philip Glass at the MiTo music festival in Milan and Turin in September 2015. The model is scheduled for display as background to a selection of Amarna artefacts at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem within an exhibition titled ‘Pharaoh in Canaan’ opening March 2016. I am currently working on an enhanced version of the city model using up-to-date modelling techniques and acquired archival sources.

The Engineering Years

On leaving school in the early 1980’s I attended Gateshead Technical College to study a diploma in general engineering which covered a wide range of practical engineering skills such as electrical wiring, electronics, microelectronics, welding, material technology and fitting & turning. This was full time for two years after which I was given the opportunity to work for an engineering company as part of a six man team developing linear particle accelerators (ion beam systems) for the UKAEA (UK Atomic Energy Authority). I continued part time study towards HNC’s in Electrical & Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

After spending 5 years with the company it was bought out by Darchem and my engineering career continued through Northumbria University and the European Space Agency via short term contracts. During this period I had amassed a lot of programming experience and combined with my CAD/3D knowledge I had already began my move into the field of multimedia eventually leading into game development.

I am very much a practical person and the engineering skills I acquired have continued to stand me in good stead. Not only do I develop digital models but I also construct physical ones using more traditional methods. Presently I am building a 1:65 scale museum quality replica of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour.

The Game Development Years

My days in the games industry started towards the end of the 1980’s where I initially worked as a programmer but my graphics expertise came into the fore when I began training artists to work in 3D. I became a certified 3dsmax trainer and worked on a variety of projects for Activision, Ocean, Infogrames, Atari, EA and Microsoft. After spending time working freelance I joined Merit Studios which later became Eutechnyx now noted for their racing games. An opportunity arose to work for Iguana Entertainment so I moved to Stockton-on-Tees prior to the studio becoming Acclaim Studios Teesside.

During this time I was one of the first technical artists around and bridged the gap between programming and art departments. I gained experience in developing content on the Silicon Graphics platform using Softimage 3D, Alias PowerAnimator and Wavefront’s Advanced Visualiser software. The later two eventually merged to become Alias|Wavefront and the software became Maya. I became expert in the use of visual effects such as particle systems, rigid & soft body dynamics, fluid dynamics, rag doll simulation and crowd behaviour systems. However my main 3D software of choice was always Autodesk 3dsmax.

Before I moved into academia I had worked on well over 30 game titles spanning a number of game genres and platforms. As the new millennia was dawning the future of Acclaim Studios Teesside looked uncertain and I decided to take stock and move on. My game development years had not finished. In fact they were about to expand further.

The Lecturing Years

In 2000 I investigated gaining a formal degree qualification in the field I had worked in for so many years. Unfortunately, at that time there were no focused degrees in the field of games art or design; the closest subject being computer animation. The University of Teesside was an early adopter in this subject and whilst I was looking into their master’s degree in computer animation the University approached me about developing their first undergraduate programme in computer games design. I was employed as a lecturer in visualisation and during these early years in academia I began to realise a long-term ambition of working within the area of 3D historical visualisation. My work on the Amarna3D Project began as part of my active research interests which ran alongside the initial games degree programme development.


I would go on to develop further programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, over time progressing to Principal Lecturer and then Subject Head managing a team of up to 17 academics. I am proud of my achievements during this time, which saw Teesside University become renowned in this field of academia growing from an initial cohort of around 20 students to over 500 in 2015. I developed over 30 modules with the Journeyman Project being my most challenging. This module gives students the experience of working in teams across a range of games degree pathways in order to create a vertical slice of a game development and present it to industry. An ambitious module with its name aptly derived from my genealogical studies into old professions.

However, whilst heading towards 2015, I took the decision to step aside from the role of Subject Head taking on different responsibilities as part of my portfolio. The expectation was that I would be allowed to pursue PhD research utilising game technology for 3D historical reconstruction. Although I was given support in principle, the reality was that my workload would not let me get a foothold. This led to increasing frustration, so when the offer of university-wide voluntary severance arose I took stock and drew the conclusion that I was at a crossroads in my working life. With the support of my wife and family the decision was made to take a severance package in order to pursue a qualification in archaeology. Ultimately, to work within the field of digital heritage and conservation.

The Indiana Jones Years

My long-term interest is genealogy has led to an array of projects that explores a desire to appreciate how and where my ancestors lived. What started years ago as curiosity into my family history, snowballed into in-depth research of the O’Dochartaigh (Doherty) Clan; research accepted by the clan association. Tasks I have undertaken include deciphering medieval Gaelic pedigrees, scrutinising the Irish Annals and familiarising myself with early Irish history. I am also part of a long-term DNA project identifying connections between branches of the O’Dochartaigh clan as well as establishing the inter-relationships between regional clans through genetic mapping.

To help contextualise my genealogical research I am using photogrammetry to digitally reconstruct ruined Irish tower houses once inhabited by the Clan. These fortifications are situated around the Inishowen peninsula. This study involves combining ground based photography and video footage from UAV drones taking a structure-from-motion (SfM) approach to reconstructing the tower houses in 3D. For once-standing buildings that no longer exist I have explored contemporary descriptions and accounts within old manuscripts (such as the State Papers of Ireland) as a means of developing suitable representations.

Further photogrammetric experiments have looked at the reconstruction of artefacts from cloud-based images. I have been able to successfully reconstruct models of the Queen Nefertiti bust and one of the more intact Colossi of Akhenaten from problematic source images. Other interests I have include landscape, macro and high dynamic range (HDR) photography and the digital restoration of old photographs.

Careful consideration of the physical material left behind by past civilisations gives us invaluable insight into how they went about their lives. My fascination and intrigue with history has to date revolved around my skills in digital media. I am keen to develop new knowledge and understanding, learning how best to interpret the historical evidence, both academically and practically which is why between 2016 and 2019 I studied for a BA degree in archaeology at the University of Leicester graduating with a first class honours.

I am currently studying for a MA in Archaeology (by research) at the University of York looking at visual storytelling and interactive 3D environments using the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna as my case study. If you are interested in the Amarna:3D Project then you can use this contact form for any queries regarding my work.