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Virtual Reconstruction July 29, 1997
by Amélie A. Walker

[image]An image from the temple's ceiling, reconstructed thanks to new computer technology (Courtesy IBM Research) [LARGER IMAGE]

Computer visualization technology is helping in the reconstruction of the ceiling of a 1,800-year-old Moche temple in Peru. Alan Kalvin of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Jorge Prado and Eduardo Nolazco of Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and Alfredo Remy of IBM Peru have recently developed Armado ("assemble" in Spanish), a computer-based reconstruction system that facilitates digital restoration. With this technology, the temple's narrative ceiling paintings, broken into more than 5,000 pieces, are on their way to virtual reconstruction.

The temple that contains the fragmented ceiling is one of three being excavated at the El Brujo archaeological complex on the coast of northern Peru by the Augusto N. Wiese Foundation. As many of the pieces are too fragile to be handled, Guillermo Wiese, head of the foundation, found it necessary to turn to computer assistance to decipher the ceiling paintings. To avoid transportation, the fragments were digitized on site using a color document scanner. The scanned images were then put on the Armado computer system, where pieces are being grouped together based on specific criteria and then matched according to similarity. Color, texture, and markings, along with possible interpretations of figures, are used as a data base to test matches. Six painted figures have been pieced together so far, and the project is expected to be completed in a few months.

"The combination of traditional archaeology and next-generation, futuristic technology is delivering important results that will significantly enhance our understanding of Moche society," said Kalvin. "What's more, with this new technology, restoration of numerous other historic treasures will be possible in the future."

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America