A group of researchers from Lund University in Sweden has used 3D scanning technology to reconstruct a house from the ancient Roman town of Pompeii. The generated 3D model shows what the house would have looked like before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
Historians have been fascinated with the ancient Roman town of Pompeii for centuries. Founded in the sixth or seventh century BC, the town had an advanced water system, amphitheater, and a population of around 11,000 residents before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Under layers and layers of volcanic ash, the town remained incredibly well preserved until its 18th century rediscovery and uncovering. The remnants of Pompeii have proven incredibly enlightening for historians, but researchers are still finding new ways to learn more about the destroyed town. 3D scanning technology, for example, has enabled a group of Lund University researchers to generate a virtual model of a large house, showing exactly how the building would have looked prior to its destruction.
Since the year 2000, the Swedish Pompeii Project has been carrying out various projects under the leadership of Anne-Marie Leander Touati, formerly of Rome’s Swedish Institute and now Professor of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Lund University. The group aims to document the ancient town as fully as possible in case of further destruction caused by earthquakes and such like. Since 2010, the research has been managed by the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History in Lund.
Using 3D scanning technology from Florida-based scanning specialist Faro, the Lund researchers have been able to gather large amounts of visual data about Pompeii, data which can be used to create virtual restorations of buildings like the House of Caecilius Iucundus, shown in the video below. The city district was 3D scanned during field work between 2011-2012, and the first 3D models of the ruin city have now been completed. “By combining new technology with more traditional methods, we can describe Pompeii in greater detail and more accurately than was previously possible,” commented Nicoló Dell´Unto, a digital archaeologist at Lund University.
To recreate the House of Caecilius Iucundus, the Lund researchers used laser 3D scanning technology to gather 3D images of the building. A drone was later used to gather aerial images of the site. After the visual data was meshed using special software, the resulting polygon structure was enhanced with manually inputted colors. Digital photographs were then added to the 3D model to enhance the appearance of the walls and floors, creating a credible and recognizable 3D visualization.
During their time in Pompeii, the researchers have uncovered floor surfaces from AD 79, performed detailed studies of the building development through history, and cleaned and documented three large wealthy estates, a tavern, a laundry, a bakery and several gardens. Their work has uncovered numerous tiny details about life in Pompeii prior to the eruption. In one garden, for example, the researchers found that some taps on a fountain were on at the time of eruption, meaning water was flowing when the volcanic ash fell over Pompeii.
Every now and again the researchers would discover completely untouched layers. In a shop, for example, they found three completely intact windows made from translucent crystalline gypsum stacked against each other. These windows are believed to have come from Rome. By studying water and sewer systems, the researchers have also been able to interpret the social hierarchies of the ancient town, learning that retailers and restaurants were dependent on large wealthy families for water.
Although the researchers' work is varied and encompasses many projects, one of the most important areas of their research is the use of 3D technology. While real artifacts are incredibly eye-opening, full digital reconstructions of Pompeii buildings provide a completely new perspective on life in the town. “The fascinating thing is that you are entering history,” Touati said. “You are entering into a house with four- or five-meter-high walls. You can imagine yourself [there]; you can go back on a journey. There is also so much evidence to discuss how people lived there 2,000 years ago.”
The researchers hope to finish the project this year or next. A research paper documenting their findings has been published on SCIRES.
Researchers reconstruct house from old Pompeii using 3D-technology
Walk around in a 3D splendid house from the ancient Pompeii