Google Earth Steps Back in Time to Ancient Rome

There's a lot more to history and archeology than just uncovering the past. Sometimes recreating the past in our present time is the best way to understand how people lived thousands of years ago. One such project, the Rome Reborn project of the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, seeks to digitally rebuild the city of Rome "as it might have appeared at the height of its urban development in the time of Constantine the Great in A.D. 320."

The first version of the Rome Reborn project was ten years in the making and was completed only last year. It included digital models of the terrain and over 7,000 structures--250 of which were highly detailed. The source for the data used to build the digital model was an actual 1:250 scale model of Rome that had been painstakingly built out of plaster of Paris over 40 years from 1933 to 1973. The real-world 3D model was scanned using laser scanners to create the data to populate the virtual model. The original purpose of the digital model was to be used in "an immersive theater at UCLA." The Rome Reborn project has gone through several iterations just since last year. The most recent version, Rome Reborn 2.0, has considerably improved the geometric detail, and perhaps more significantly to users who don't have direct access to the researcher's systems, the Rome Reborn project gained the ability to be viewed on the Web. That's when Google stepped in and offered to include the Rome Reborn data in Google Earth.

"Making the models available in Google Earth is another step in the creation of a virtual time machine which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world." -- Bernard Frischer, Director of the Rome Reborn Project and Director of Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities

Any user of the current version of Google Earth can now tour Ancient Rome. Users can navigate in and around the structures, and can even "enter important public buildings such as the Roman Senate and the Colosseum." For the more highly-detailed 250 structures, additional research information can be accessed via "information bubbles" that hover over the relevant sites. Researchers plan to add more information over time. In fact, researchers hope that by making this data widely available on Google Earth that it will help provide incentive to other researchers to conduct similar 3D model of other ancient cities.
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