Roman history comes to life in Google Earth

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 3:02 AM


Were you someone who struggled to stay awake in ancient history class? If so, perhaps this was due to those uninspiring "artist renditions" in your textbook. Reading countless pages that described how a monument, building or city may have appeared at the time can be pretty difficult to imagine.

Well, today we introduced a new approach to learning about ancient history: the ability to go back in time and explore Rome as it existed in 320 AD -- in 3D!

All of this is possible through the new Ancient Rome 3D layer in Google Earth. To activate the layer, simply open the "Gallery" folder in the "Layers" panel and select "Ancient Rome 3D."

The new layer, produced by the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) and based on its Rome Reborn model, contains over 6,700 3D buildings and 250 Google Earth placemarks that allow Google Earth users to explore and learn about this fascinating period of history.

This is the first time that we have incorporated an ancient city in Google Earth. Going back in time presented some new challenges, such as how to handle the ancient terrain which was clearly different than modern day. We needed to ensure that modern day imagery, terrain and buildings didn't interfere with the ancient Rome model so we opted for a simple overlay.

This exciting new layer also serves as the inspiration for the Google Ancient Rome 3D Curriculum Competition, a first-ever Google contest geared towards K-12 educators in the US. Whether your lesson plan involves teaching geometry through Roman architecture or re-imagining ancient history with this new visualization tool, there's fame and an awesome prize package waiting for you! The submission deadline is February 9th, so get those creative engines revved up soon!

So go ahead, fly down to the Roman Forum and experience what it may have felt like to stand on the Rostra of Augusta and make a political speech. Or, if you've fantasized about being a gladiator in the Colosseum, go for it. Simply fly there in Google Earth, enter through the ground level door and envision the crowds cheering you on! Take a look at this video to see what adventures await:



Omnes viae Romam ducunt (all roads lead to Rome).

Update
@ 12:15 PM: Rome wasn't built in a day! The Ancient Rome 3D layer will be available soon. We're sorry for the delay, and we'll post here when it's live.

Update @ 6:15 PM: The layer is now live in Google Earth, in the Gallery folder of the Layers panel. When you zoom in on Rome you will see yellow Ancient Rome 3D icons. To load the terrain and buildings, click on any icon and then click the links at the bottom of the bubble.