Digital Reconstruction of the Parthenon

A group of twelve dedicated researchers from the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies digitally reconstructed the Parthenon and published their work in 2004.  The process includes a laser-scanned model of the scene’s geometry, digital images of the Parthenon under several natural illumination conditions, and a set of measurements of the scene’s incident illumination.  Essentially, the researchers used a lot of advanced technology and cameras to capture the Parthenon under sunny, cloudy, and in between conditions.  They used the digital images to pinpoint details about the colors, lighting, angles, and other aspects of the geometry to accurately recreate the Parthenon on a computer.  A lot of the language used to describe the process is very advanced, but there is a video provided in this post that makes it much easier to understand.  It has excellent graphics and descriptions so you can see what is happening and watch them recreate the ancient masterpiece.

As we move deeper into this technological age, this seems to be a great use of contemporary knowledge.  While nothing could replace physically being in Greece and seeing the actual Parthenon, digital reconstruction gives a lot of people access to it from the comfort of their own computer screens.  In addition, should anything happen to the Parthenon-or other ancient works for that matter-the digital reconstructions allow part of its memory to survive.  Another benefit to these reconstructions is that they can be used to prepare illuminations for events at the ancient sites.  For example, if there was an event going on at the Parthenon, or for tourist purposes Greece wanted to have it illuminated at night, they can digitally try different color options, luminosities, and other variations so the desired look can be found digitally ahead of time.  This saves time and could help prevent increased damage to the site by tampering with lighting over and over until it reaches the desired effect.

I hope that people take advantage of the benefits the digital reconstruction has to offer.  The reconstructed pieces are incredibly realistic and accurate-it is very hard to tell the difference between actual photographs and digitally reconstructed images.  These researchers have invested a lot of time and effort in this and I hope society enjoys it.  However, I hope that people don’t rely solely on the reconstructions and forget about the actual sites.  I think that if people are able to physically see the Parthenon or other ancient sites, they should take that opportunity and not let digital reconstruction keep them away from it.  I believe that the reconstructions are amazing for educational purposes, but I do not think they can provide the breath-taking experience of physically visiting these incredible sites.  As hard as we try to move forward in the world, there is still something to be said about the ancient civilizations and their accomplishments.


Digital Reconstruction of the Parthenon Video


Debevec, Paul, Chris Tchou, Andrew Gardner, Tim Hawkins, Charis Poullis, Jessi Stumpfel, Andrew Jones, Nathaniel Yun, Per Einarsson, Therese Lundgren, Marcos Fajardo, and Phiippe Martinez. “Estimating Surface Reflectance Properties of a Complex Scene under.” USC ICT Technical Report (2004): 1-11.

Stumpfel, Jessi, Chris Tchou, Tim Hawkins, Philippe Martinez, Brian Emerson, Marc Brownlow, Andrew Jones, Nathaniel Yun, and Paul Debevec. “Digital Reunification of the Parthenon.” 4th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage (2003): 1-10.


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3 Responses to Digital Reconstruction of the Parthenon

  1. mcbohn says:

    Wow, this video was really incredible. At least for me, it offered an entirely new perspective on the Parthenon’s grandeur. While I don’t think anyone would consider this resource a replacement for seeing the Parthenon in person, I do think that this is a really great use of technology for people who are unable to actually make the trip to Greece.

  2. dlloebman says:

    As you’ve said, digitally logging the information available at these ancient sites is extremely valuable. As technology advances, more and more detailed renderings will become available, perhaps even surpassing the visual element. I feel as though ideas such as these serve to protect our past from time, wear, and possible destruction. I hope this approach to recording history is expanded not just in its level of detail, but in the scope of possible subjects to preserve. Providing a detailed, digital journey through these ancient sites serves to connect modern society to our past.

  3. meoneil says:

    Follow this link to watch the film:

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