A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
As more and more data go online, both laypeople and scholars are experiencing the world of archaeology in a way that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
In November, a consortium of universities partnered with Google to relaunch the Rome Reborn project, a digital version of ancient Rome as it appeared during the reign of Constantine the Great, specifically on June 21, A.D. 320. Available online at earth.google.com/rome, the digital environment faithfully reproduces all 16 square miles of the ancient capital. Probably the most ambitious virtual re-creation of an ancient site ever made publicly accessible, Rome Reborn includes more than 7,000 individual structures.
The nonprofit Cyark also relaunched its website (www.cyark.org) this year. Cyark promotes laser scanning of threatened heritage sites and serves as an online clearing-house for that information, including scans of ancient centers like Peru's Chan Chan and Mesa Verde in Colorado. Visitors can access 3-D re-creations to take measurements, study architectural forms, or just admire ancient ingenuity. (See the upcoming May/June issue for an in-depth article on Cyark's efforts to "digitally preserve" world heritage.)
The virtual rise of ancient cities wasn't the only online development that caught our eyes this year. Some archaeologists are actually using the Internet as a survey tool. La Trobe University archaeologist David Thomas and his colleagues used Google Earth to locate more than 450 previously unknown sites in Afghanistan. Thomas says that armchair archaeologists have been letting him know about places they've discovered in Central Asia using the online satellite image program. Many of them are modern structures such as old Soviet military installations, but some amateurs have succeeded in locating bona fide unknown ancient sites.