Rome in Google Earth

I spent the weekend in a particularly brown, cold, and desolate corner of Colorado–pretty far away from the sunny Mediterranean.  Regardless, I spent a bit of time checking out Rome Reborn after Google’s big announcement last week.  Google Earth’s Rome page is a little disppointing, but it contains a brief youtube video and a few screenshots from the simulation.  After a little tinkering with my Google Earth settings (I had it set up to show me places to sleep in Ireland), I was able to check the buildings and placemarkers out.


Honestly, it was a bit of a mess.  Regardless, I’m used to dealing with Second Life, which brings messiness to a whole new level, so I really can’t complain much.  I tried to recreate swooping through the buildings like in the promotional youtube video, but dealing with the Google Earth camera is a little unwieldy and you can accidentally pop through this layer onto the modern Rome layer–the archaeology is actually transposed onto the modern landscape, which is an interesting contrast to our idea of archaeology being beneath the ground.


There were also several 3D buildings already on the landscape, made by community members, geolocated photos, and descriptions of places written independently of the Rome Reborn project.  Seeing them side by side with the more “official” interpretations is a nice feature in Google Earth, and I’m glad Google didn’t (as far as I know) remove any of the existing annotations.

Rome Reborn could be critiqued on any number of levels–the lack of non-elite buildings, the lack of authorship and “certainty” metrics (how sure we are that the building actually looked like the reproduction) but I’m happy that the team decided to come and play out in the world, instead of keeping Rome Reborn in a sandbox.  It’s certainly grander than our little Presidio reproduction:

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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