Fragments of the City: Stanford's Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project

David Koller, Jennifer Trimble, Tina Najbjerg, Natasha Gelfand, and Marc Levoy, Stanford University

Proceedings of the Third Williams Symposium on Classical Architecture, Journal of Roman Archaeology Suppl. 61, 2006, pp. 237-252.


In this article, we summarize the Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Project work since it began in 1999 and discuss its implications for representing and imaging Rome. First, we digitized the shape and surface of every known fragment of the Severan Marble Plan using laser range scanners and digital color cameras; the raw data collected consists of 8 billion polygons and 6 thousand color images, occupying 40 gigabytes. These range and color data have been assembled into a set of 3D computer models and high-resolution photographs - one for each of the 1,186 marble fragments. Second, this data has served in the development of fragment matching algorithms; to date, these have resulted in over a dozen highly probable, new matches. Third, we have gathered the Project's 3D models and color photographs into a relational database and supported them with archaeological documentation and an up-to-date scholarly apparatus for each fragment. This database is intended to be a public, web-based, research and study tool for scholars, students and interested members of the general public alike. Fourth, these digital and archaeological data, and their availability in a hypertext format, have the potential to broaden the scope and type of research done on this ancient map by facilitating a range of typological, representational and urbanistic analyses of the map, some of which are proposed here. In these several ways, we hope that this Project will contribute to new ways of imaging Rome.

Submitted version of paper

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