Art in Roman Catacombs Revealed with 3-D Scanning

October 1, 2012

Scientists to Meet at Redford Conference in Archaeology

Celebrate National Archaeology Day!

Come to a free, public talk by Norbert Zimmermann, Oct. 25, 7 p.m.

How technology is helping the study of ancient history

TACOMA, Wash. – Buried in the ancient catacombs of Rome lie some of the oldest paintings from the early Christian art tradition. Until recently the nine miles of underground galleries in the largest Roman catacomb were inaccessible to tourists, and often even to scientists, for preservation reasons. Then 3-D laser scanning technology came along.

Norbert Zimmermann, from the Institute for the Study of Ancient Culture at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna (pictured), will speak about this revolutionary technology and its effect on archaeology at the upcoming Redford Conference in Archaeology at University of Puget Sound. The lecture is listed as part of National Archaeology Day (Saturday, Oct. 20) by the Archaeological Institute of America.

Zimmermann’s lecture, “Showing the Invisible: 3-D Scanning in the Roman Catacombs,” will present an overview of how archaeology can make the best use of the new technology, which allows researchers to scan an object and then use the data to construct three dimensional models of it. The free, public talk will be in McIntyre Hall, Room 103 at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25.

Data collected over six years at the expansive Domitilla Catacombs (pictured) not only allowed the creation of individual models of artworks and one huge, realistic 3-D model of the catacombs, but revealed previously unseen wall paintings that could be documented and studied. Attendees at the talk will experience a virtual tour of the Domitilla Catacombs, including a look at some of the most controversial and beautiful paintings.

Zimmermann’s talk will kick off the Redford Conference in Archaeology: Taking Archaeology Digital. The conference will take a broader look at the evolution of archaeology based on ever-changing, new technology and will explore how to best use these new tools to advance the field.

University of Puget Sound and its faculty will welcome researchers from four countries—working on projects in areas including Italy, Greece, and Israel. The conference will run Oct.  26–27, beginning with a panel presentation on Friday evening. Sessions will continue all day Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Keynote speakers include some of the pioneers in this field: Harrison (Nick) Eiteljorg, from the Center for the Study of Architecture in Pennsylvania; Sebastian Heath, from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University and the American Numismatic Society; and Norbert Zimmermann from the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

The talk by Zimmermann is sponsored by the Lora Bryning Redford Lecture Series, which was established in memory of the late Lora Bryning Redford ’37 by her three sons. Lora Bryning Redford pursued an international diplomatic career and was one of the first women to be admitted as a professional diplomat in the Foreign Service. She was interested in archaeology, wrote two books based on her experiences in the Himalayas and Tibet, and served at the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars.

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Photos on page: Top right and bottom left: 3-D images of the Domitllla Catacombs in Italy; Above left: Robert Zimmermann

Tweet this: Art in Roman catacombs & 3-D technology, free talk @ #RedfordConference in #Archaeology @univpugetsound, Oct. 25

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