07-03-2013 mag 7 /


Reviving the Past

by: Siem

A fundamental task for virtual archaeologists is to erase illusions instead of reconstructing the past as "truth"

Imagine that you are walking through the centre of Ancient Rome, 320 AD. You continue your walk from south to north and in the distance the Arch of Constantine emerges. It is a long walk with the palatine hill on your left, but you decide to continue straight forward towards the majestic Arch of Constantine that is over 20 meters high, 25 meters wide and more than 7 meters deep. Getting closer, you already see the grandiose contours of the Flavian Theatre (Coliseum) appearing on the right, slightly behind the Arch of Constantine. Standing underneath the Arch makes you feel very tiny, especially when considering the amount detail in the architecture and design of these buildings and thereby the amount of work and time invested to virtually construct these historical and monumental buildings; of which some do not even exist anymore in today’s ‘physical world’. You can no longer suppress your thought which says; “So this is how Rome once looked!”

Many archaeologists are looking for opportunities to virtually ‘preserve’ historical monuments. Professor Bernard Frischer is one of them. Frischer is the director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory at the University of Virginia and director of the Rome Reborn project. The goal of this project is the creation of 3D digital models illustrating the urban development of ancient Rome from the first settlement in the late Bronze Age to the depopulation of the city in the early Middle Ages. Would it not be nice to revive the past? To walk through the ‘real virtual’ ancient Rome instead of looking merely at some remains of historical buildings while everything around these monuments is broken or even completely erased? 

I invite you to read my paper and find out some of the problematic issues concerning archaeological virtual reconstructions, especially concerning Rome Reborn.