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Web: Cyber Sets and Sanctuaries Volume 56 Number 5, September/October 2003
by Jason Urbanus

The virtual 3-D model is based on data from historical paintings and modern photographs of a fresco at Pompeii that depicts Roman theater. (Courtesy University of Warwick) [LARGER IMAGE]

Students of theater history have long studied elaborate frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum that depict scenes and sets from ancient theater. Now, the e-lab at the University of Warwick, in conjunction with the university's School of Theatre Studies, are using state-of-the-art computer technology to create 3-D models of Roman theaters based on these wall paintings. (The models can be viewed online at or on the CD-ROM "Stages of Theatre: Greeks to Shakespeare," marketed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences of Princeton, N.J.) To gain a better sense of the glory of the ancient theater, viewers can recreate performances, place virtual actors on stage, and zoom around theaters to examine their structure from different angles.

Another successful effort to recreate the past for the cyber visitor comes from the Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments Executive Agency, a heritage conservation organization that has teamed up with the Virtual Experience Company to create a computer-generated 3-D model of Tintern Abbey in southeast Wales (experience a virtual tour at The early fourteenth-century abbey, made famous by William Wordsworth, is now in ruins, but archaeological evidence of the original architectural structure and details has made a computerized reconstruction possible. The viewer can switch between the abbey as it is today and how it would have looked in 1320--a valuable educational resource on one of the great wonders of Wales.

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© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America