August 2000

David Gilman Romano and Nicholas L. Stapp,

Mediterranean Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Nationwide Applications Contest: The Best of the Best, Winners 2000
2ND PLACE--Flying Through the Past

Since 1988, the Corinth Computer Project of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology -- under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies, Corinth Excavations -- has been undertaking a computerized architectural and cartographic study of the Roman colony of Corinth, Greece, founded by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. The project has three goals: to study the nature of the city planning process during the Roman period; to gain a more precise idea of the order of accuracy of the Roman surveyor; and to construct a series of highly accurate computerized maps of the ancient city. The initial study area of the project covered 0.006 square kilometers. The study area presently encompasses approximately 700 square kilometers.

The research lab uses cutting-edge technology and traditional methods to meet our goals. Methods include the use of computer-aided design (CAD), total station survey, GIS, remote sensing, three-dimensional modeling, and Web programming. We use these technologies to accurately digitize site data and post it on our Web site ( for simulating and analyzing scenarios as well as educating the general public. The site went live in 1996, presenting the viewer with static GIS data and three-dimensional stills. Today, visitors can interact with our GIS and three-dimensional models dynamically.

Using a conventional total station, we have documented the exact locations and orientation of approximately 12,748 physical features. We employ a CAD program to read the surveyed data, which allows us to digitize, fit, and orient plans and maps to the surveyed data at 52 centimeters. We then import the digitized CAD data into a GIS program for analysis and interpretation. Three times a year, we create three-dimensional models using our GIS in conjunction with image analysis software and a modeling program. We start with digitized contour data from topographic maps and assign a z value to the digitized data. We then render either a wire-frame or triangulated irregular network model out of this three-dimensional vector data. Next, we drape a ground level of remote sensing data over this model for relief mapping and enhanced visualization.

From these three-dimensional models, we create virtual reality modeling language simulations and movies for posting on the Web site, enabling visitors to virtually fly through three-dimensional historical recreations of Corinth. Currently, the project Web site also allows Internet users to view GIS, remote sensing (low/high­ level aerial photographs and satellite images) data, and topographic maps at varying scales as well as interact with stone-for-stone archaeological plans of the ancient city of Corinth.

The Corinth Computer Project Web site also contains traditional excavation data and published reports. The traditional data supplement the technical methods by providing a wealth of archaeological and historical information about the site. The excavated data come from an ongoing study of the ancient city conducted by the Corinth Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, which began in 1896.

The Web site has been a valuable tool for teaching various aspects of archaeology in the classroom, offering unique educational opportunities for K­12 as well as university students. We hope that the Corinth Computer Project Web site will eventually serve as a central store of information to enable archaeologists in the field to share information quickly.

The Corinth Computer Project collects survey data about archaeological finds using a Set-3 total station and an SDR-2 handheld computer from Sokkia ( For CAD applications, the lab employs AutoCAD and CAD Overlay from Autodesk ( and MicroStation/J from Bentley ( It employs ArcView and Spatial Analyst from ESRI ( to analyze field data and ESRI's Image Analysis and ERDAS's ( ERDAS IMAGINE to prepare remote sensing data for 3D models. The actual models are created using Autodesk's 3D Studio Max and exported as virtual reality modeling language movies for posting on the Internet. The lab uses satellite imagery from Space Imaging( and Spot ( READ THE REAL ARTICLE