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About this Article
Written by: Melissa Carrasco
Written on: October 1st, 2000
Tags: building & architecture, history & society
Thumbnail by: Tachym├Ętre/Wikipedia Commons
About the Author
In Fall 2000, the author was at student at USC.
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Volume II Issue II > Rebuilding the Ancient World via Computer Modeling
Computer modeling gives archaeologists the means to represent data. These computer models can then be modified as new data is collected. There are many applications available to develop these computer models. One such example of computer modeling being used in the field of archaeology is the Pompeii Forum Project. These computer models of ancient buildings are useful to archaeologists as well as to the general public because they allow people to see how non existent builds may have looked.
Computer modeling is no longer just used to make movies like Toy Story. Archaeology is a field that is also using computer modeling. Computer modeling gives archeologists a way to take all of their data and theories and make a three-dimensional. They are able to reconstruct ancient buildings that have been ruins for hundreds of years. Not only does computer modeling allow them to make a three-dimensional picture of the structure, it makes it easy for them to go back and change the picture when they receive new information. In order to understand the importance of computer modeling to archaeologists, we must first understand computer modeling.

What is a Computer Model?

To get the full concept of a computer model, first think of a photograph of an object. A photograph looks identical to the object but instead it is flat, two-dimensional. Also, a photograph may appear to be a very accurate representation of the real world, but in many ways, it is not. From a photograph, one cannot tell the true dimensions or, more importantly, how that object interacts with the other objects around it. Sometimes the dimensions may be distorted depending on the angle at which the picture was taken. For instance, imagine yourself sitting directly in front of a computer and you are taking a picture of it. The picture will show how tall and wide the computer is, but it will not show the depth of how far back the computer extends. A computer model is able to overcome many of the limitations present in using photographs. A computer model resembles a photograph, but it is three-dimensional. The aim of a computer model is to represent the real world as accurately as possible. Computer models do this in two ways: it can be a static computer model or a dynamic computer model. Static computer models are used to represent a specific instance of the world at a given moment in time. Dynamic computer models are used to show how events unfold over a period of time [1].

Why Archeology is Using Computer Modeling

Tachym├Ętre/Wikipedi​a Commons
Figure 1: Three-dimensional modeling of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia.
Computer modeling is beneficial to archaeology because it provides a way to represent data three-dimensionally for the purposes of publishing results, recording and research [1]. This gives archaeologists the opportunity to recreate buildings that no longer exist. Computer models also give archaeologists the flexibility of designing and re-modifying models (Fig. 1), as new information is gathered. Also different models of the same buildings can be built and compared. These differently designed models could represent how the building looked at different periods of time or different theories of how the building may have looked.

Computer Applications Available to Create Models

There are many computer applications that are available to make computer models. A few applications currently used to reconstruct ancient builds are Autodesk's AutoCAD (Computer Aided Drafting), CART (Computer Aided Recording Tool), and Kinetix's 3D Studio Max. AutoCAD and 3D Studio Max provides a user-friendly way to develop three-dimensional drawings on the computer. CART on the other hand converts coordinate information into three-dimensional CAD model without the user having to do any of the drafting manually. It does this by reading a database containing points and related information and takes that information and turns it into a CAD model that is fully linked to the database that drew it. There are two components to the CART system. The first component is automatic drafting software that takes a database containing points and other information about those points and generates an AutoCAD model. The second component is a suite of tools to build the database from different data sources available. Some examples of data sources used to build such a database are survey data, plane-table measurements, hand measurements using running dimensions, paper drawings, photographs, and previous CAD models. The CAD model produced is composed of unique objects and each of these objects has at least one link to a database that provides more information about the object [2].