3D restoration of a roman dwelling
The virtual restoration of a building at Herculaneum is comprised of three levels, which can be classified according to their relationship to the resources upon which they are based, and therefore the reliability of the hypotheses involved:
1. Reproduce what is known. Such is the case for the floors of the ground floor, which are often the elements of the house that are best preserved. Their reconstruction can therefore be considered accurate and reliable.
2. Complete the elements that are present in part, but altered, such as estimating the the height of a wall that is partially collapsed. The restoration of wall paintings that have been altered or obscured falls into this category.
3. Fill in the gaps. Numerous elements of the décor, architecture, furniture, and instrumentum have disappeared. The coherence and legibility of the ensemble requires that these elements also be reconstructed, or at least evoked. Such is the case for beams and framework, doors, wall-hangings, etc.
Why reconstruct everything ?
This question is the question that arises first and foremost for the archaeologist. Our training and methodologies encourage us, rightly, to limit our interpretations and hypothetical reconstructions to that which we can conclude, with a reasonable degree of certainty, from the study of a site and the associated vestiges, archives, and objects.
But, as we know, the evocative power of the image is such that it is the most effective means of communicating the knowledge about Classical antiquity that has been gained from archaeological research. That is to say, archaeologists must come to terms with the following reality: with or without them, our visual universe is saturated with images of antiquity, an antiquity that has been rediscovered, imagined, fantasized. The demand for these images is ever increasing, due in part to the spectacular progress that has been made in recent decades, in movies and in documentaries, in the visual evocation of Classical cities. Thus, the image reigns supreme, in that the information it conveys leaves a deeper and more lasting impression on the memory than the most clear and concise text. This is why, in response to the flood of uncontrolled and uncontrollable images of the past, it seems that the archaeologist is obliged to propose images as captivating and suggestive as possible, while founded on strict scientific criteria. However, with regard to the results of archaeological research, it is essential that one link the supporting documents and evidence to the image. One of the central aims of our approach is to make the facts and the information upon which our conclusions are based widely available so that the choices made during the process of restoration are transparent
In the digital restoration of the Casa di Nettuno ed Anfitrite, we at first intended to make the degree of certainty with which the various elements were reconstructed visible with the use of colour-coding, or some other methods of visual differentiation. This idea was ultimately abandoned because our images were intended for two audiences – researchers and educators on the one hand, and the “general public” on the other – which imposed constraints that were sometimes contradictory. By creating images that were scientifically complex, but less visually appealing, we feared that we risked losing the latter audience to more aesthetically pleasing, if less accurate, images that are so widely available.
In order to reconcile scientific constraints with aesthetic appeal, Archéovision designed an interface in which the restoration images can be gradually built upon the remaining ruins. The restoration is at first indicated by a difference in colour, and ultimately replaces the standing ruins entirely.
The display of resources underlying the restoration was accomplished with a very simple system of hyperlinks that provide access to either the resources related to a specific element (archives, photographs, engravings), or to a brief text that explains the choices that were made in the process of restoration