Heritage sites in 3-D
Advances in technology often are viewed as signs of the future, but researchers exploring the past increasingly adapt modern technology in their efforts. Radiocarbon dating developed in the 1940s revolutionized archaeological research by providing much more accurate dating of burials, ancient building remains, buried landscape features, and other remnants of ancient sites. More recently, DNA-matching technology has not only allowed many avocational genealogists to further explore their own ethnic heritage, but is also being increasingly used by archaeologists to document human migrations that occurred thousands of years ago. And satellite mapping has proven useful for both researching past landscapes in the former Mayan empire, for example, but also for monitoring modern-day looting of archaeological sites in the Middle East. Below are several examples - click the highlighted titles for additional information on each project.
In 2011, architects from the National Park Service's Historic American Building Survey (HABS) traveled to Afghanistan to conduct laser-scanning of two 10th-century "Victory Towers" in order to render 3-D computer models of the richly-decorated monuments to aid in their restoration and conservation. The NPS staff were assisted back in Washington, DC by two young Afghan architecture interns hosted by US/ICOMOS (United States National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites). The project was sponsored by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Another team from the National Park Service's Historic American Building Survey have also been spending portions of their summers working with interns to document through laser scanning the Statue of Liberty, the World Heritage Site standing on an island in New York harbor. The resulting 3-D computer model of the torch, which can be rotated in all directions for better views, is not only useful for conservationists but is an amazing visual treat in its own right.
Long before computer modeling was available, archaeologist Italo Gismondi spent 35 years compiling a large-scale (1:250) plaster model of ancient Rome as it existed in the 4th century AD. Commissioned by Mussolini, production of the model took Gismondi from 1933 to 1971. It is now housed in the Museum of Roman Civilization in, of all places, the modern city of Rome.