Graphics and Archaeology: Interpreting the Past

Snowbird, Utah
20-23 May 2000



Digital Technologies at the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla


  • Alonzo Addison

Presentation Resources:


Lon presented some results of a Virtual Heritage projects to scan the architecture of the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum. The work utilized long range laser scanning to capture detailed model data of the structures.

Equipment and techniques varied based upon the resolution and purpose of the scan. CNRC and Minolta systems were used for close range scanning of objects. Longer range Cyra laser devices were employed to capture larger sweeps of building architectures.

Lon wrote a paper a while back called "Virtualized Architectural Heritage:New Tools and Techniques for Capturing Built History". This was presented at the Virtual Systems and MultiMedia (VSMM98) conference in 1998. It surveyed touch versus camera systems of the day. In general there are touch, photogrammetric, and laser range-finding systems currently employed in this type of data capture.

The LIDAR entry featured in SIGGRAPH 99's Computer Animation Festival for the Cyra scanner was played to give participants a quick background of its capabilities.

The Colosseum project was a massive multi-country, multi-discipline project funded by the Bank of Rome. It employed multiple survey techniques - all the way from classic paper/pencil/tape measure to LIDAR laser scanning. The cross section that they scanned was done in a short amount of time and thus was not the full structure. Future work may include the conversion of the data clouds to surfaces.

The Baths of Caracalla used targets to synchronize the multiple scans taken of the structures. It is common to take scans made of buildings like these and run finite element analyses on them, especially helpful for strategizing future repair strategies.

Lon ended the session by showing a recent scan of a San Francisco city block done for Francis Ford Coppola, the film director.

Conclusions / Issues:

  • Question - what is the cost of a Cyra system like the one you used on these projects?
    • Roughly $175,000 US for a full system with batteries - this is before a potential 35% educational discount
    • These units provide accuracy of 4mm or better
    • Also, they provide full thermal isolation
  • Question - of the two days spent in the Colosseum, how much was achieved?
    • We did one bay (suite of arches) in one day


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