Ancient Rome goes online

2008-11-13 19:16

Rome - Obviously, there were no satellites to snap pictures of Rome two millennia ago. But that hasn't stopped experts from giving web surfers a bird's eye view of the ancient city.

Google Earth has added to its software a 3-D simulation that painstakingly reconstructs nearly 7 000 buildings of ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, the Forum and the Circus Maximus, officials said on Wednesday.

The program, which gives users access to maps and global satellite imagery, now hosts a new layer that allows surfers to see how Rome might have looked in AD 320, a bustling city of about one million people under Emperor Constantine.

Pop-up windows provide information on the monuments and visitors also can enter some of the most important sites, including the Senate and the Colosseum, to observe the architecture and marble decorations, Google Italia and the city of Rome said in a joint statement.

Google Earth's "Ancient Rome 3-D", which was unveiled on Wednesday at a news conference in city hall, is based on a simulation created by an international team led by the University of Virginia and the University of California.

Using laser scans of today's ruined monuments and advice from archaeologists, experts worked for about a decade to reconstruct ancient Rome within its 21-kilometre-long walls, said Bernard Frischer, who heads Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

The simulation, which was completed in 2007, was intended as a scholarly tool to study the ancient buildings and run experiments on them - for example to determine their crowd capacity.

Frischer said the work's publication on the internet means it can be used for broader educational purposes. Google has started a competition for US teachers offering prizes for the best curriculum that uses the new tool.

More ancient sites may be available in the future on the web, and Frischer said his team is already working on a reconstruction of colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

"It makes sense little sense for ancient Rome to be the only ancient site offered in Google Earth," he said. "It offers an ideal platform on which we can publish such work, be it of Giza in Old Kingdom Egypt or Athens in the age of Pericles."

- SAPA

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