Today, we are used to seeing the ruins of ancient Roman and Greek building like in this picture: a few columns and a broken outer shell, the pieces erected back by modern archaeologists to give us a sense of the ancient grandeur.
But what was it like, when those buildings were living, breathing spaces, used by humans for a myriad of daily functions?
I’ve mentioned before the FutureLearn course on the city of Ancient Rome, which is based on Dr Matthew Nicholls from Reading University 3D model (continually kept up-to-date). It is a tremendous resource, and I know many readers of the blog loved it, so here are a few more — much, much more! It’s actually bringing many of those spaces to life again, to the point that you can literally hear them….
Unlike Nicholls academic model above, a Greek photographer-animator named Dimitris Tsalkanis has built a 3D model of Athens. He has take painstaking efforts over the past 13 years, studying the architecture of the city and reproducing is as faithfully as possible according to current archaeological understanding.
Furthermore, while Nicholls has focused on an idealised Rome with all the known buildings more or less intact at the same time (though during the future learn course there were tantalising glimpses of a walk through time as the city grew), Tsalkanis has divided his site into periods. You can see the of Athens from the Mycenaean period, through the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Medieval, and Ottoman periods!
I suggest you start by reading the introductory article on the Smithonian Magazine (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/websites-3-d-models-offer-digital-glimpse-3000-years-ancient-athens-180974208/), or just view the highlight reel:
You should then visit the main site of Athens 3D, just leave yourself a looong coffee break to delve down that rabbit hole.
Alternatively, you can skip to his YouTube Channel — videos are not only visually amazing and engaging, but also contain captions with information about what you are looking at.
The Iconem Project is dedicated to doing 3D scans of heritage sites world-wide which are under threat. In an attempt to further conserve these endangered sites, to document and preserve them for future generations, their experts combine large-scale scanning capacity of drones and photorealistic quality 3D to create digital replicas.
These sites are as they stand now, excavated ruins. Due to their fragility (with the main factor I’d imagine being human intervention), it’s important that we have these models. From them, the original sites can be reconstructed.
So far, they have done sites in Libya (Cyrene and Apollonia), Giza, Armenia, Syria, Ankgor in Cambodia, and notable monuments and buildings around Paris and Europe. Watch their show-reel — it’s absolutely breathtaking!
More videos are available on their YouTube Channel, or in the link above.
The Sounds of Hagia Sofia
The Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) in Istanbul is one of the most iconic religious buildings of the world. Built as a massive church in Constantinople in the 6th century AD, it served primarily as an Orthodox churn for almost a thousand years (barring a short interruption by the fourth crusade — because Muslims were far less interesting targets than fellow Christians).
After the conquest of Constantinople in the 15th century, the church was converted to a mosque and Christians were forbidden entry. It was secularized and opened as a museum in the 1930’s. However, ever you ever heard about Gregorian Chants? The Orthodox church had similar traditions, including music that was written specifcially to be sung inside the Hagia Sofia.
Music that no one could properly hear for the past 6 centuries. Now, with the aid of computer modelling, researchers have recreated how worshipping in the Hagia Sofia, the very sound and soul of the music they played, would have originally sounded like.
Listen here (just put on some good headphones!), which includes a transcript of the explantion of how this was achieved, as well as before and after demos of the sound — the difference is astounding!
If you want more samples, check out this article: https://www.realmofhistory.com/2017/01/06/hagia-sophia-acoustics-recreated-stanford/
That’s it for now. I hope this instills in you the sense of grandeur and awe towards those ancient places, and what life would have been like for the people living in them.
Felix can get a bit blasé about it, what with all those people just getting in his way, but I do try to instill the same sense in my writing. As many reviewers noted, the city of Egretia is a grand, living thing — a character in its own right. If you’re curious about the view of the man on the streets towards these spaces, check out my free short stories and full novels — guaranteed to transport you to a magical time and place.