Ancient Rome in 3D

Okay people, you can stop emailing me this link now. I’m posting about it, SO CAN I HAVE SOME PEACE AND QUIET PLZ?!1

In all seriousness, Google Earth’s new Ancient Rome layer may well be one of the coolest things ever conceived by the mind of man. (And you can trust my judgment on these matters because I am entirely without bias.)

Ancient Rome 3D, as the new feature is known, is a digital elaboration of some 7,000 buildings recreating Rome circa A.D. 320, at the height of Constantine’s empire, when more than a million inhabitants lived within the city’s Aurelian walls. […]

Of the 7,000 buildings in the 1.0 version, around 250 are extremely detailed. (Thirty-one of them are based on 1:1 scale models built at U.C.L.A.) The others are sketchier and derived from a 3-D scan of data collected from a plaster model of ancient Rome at the Museum of Roman Civilization….

It’s like the only good part of the movie “Gladiator” (the sweeping CGI vistas of the city as they approach the Colosseum) expanded 7000-fold. You can fly over the urbs for the bird’s eye view, or you can focus in individual buildings at a level of detail that just boggles the mind.

One wee problem:

Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, suggested Wednesday that the Google Earth feature could gratify tourists who are disappointed to find that the city’s ancient monuments are in ruins. “They may not be enough to involve the tourist in the experience of Roman civilization,” he said. “The public needs the hook-up with virtual reality.”

Now that’s just stupid. I don’t know what tourists go to Rome thinking the ancient monuments aren’t in ruins, but I doubt they’re capable of downloading Google Earth if looking at pictures or cracking a book is too much of a challenge for them.

One of the things I love the most about Rome is envisioning the ruins as they once were. My parents had these great little books with pictures of monuments as they are now and a transparent film you would fold over the pic that filled in the blanks with renderings of the monuments as they were in antiquity.

I pored over those books for hours. I think the Google Earth Rome would be even cooler, in fact, if they offered an overlay feature: new city over old, old city over new. They certainly have the data for it.

Here’s a groovy demo of what the new layer looks like: