Digital Reconstruction of
Santa Maria Antiqua
in the Roman Forum

Ball State University
     Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma
     Texas Tech University
The Santa Maria Antiqua site.

The Project

This project aims at setting up a packet of digital resources documenting the excavation and restoration of the church of Santa Maria Antiqua (SMA) in the Roman Forum, carried out to a great extent in 1900, and to provide a new reconstruction of its site in early medieval times.  The project site includes the church with its atrium, the Oratory of the Forty Martyrs, the Aula (traditionally called Temple of Augustus) and the porch on the north side connecting these buildings with a ramp that leads up to the Domus Tiberiana on the overlooking Palatine.

This church is an exceptional case of conversion of a second century Roman structure into a place of Christian worship in the sixth century.  Its wall frescoes are a fundamental document of early medieval painting in Rome, and they have been preserved because the earthquake of 847 caused the church to be abandoned and forgotten, buried under the ruins of surrounding Roman structures, until its rediscovery in 1900.  The importance of the frescos has generated a substantial body of scholarship around the church, but has, at the same time, focused the attention of scholars away from the many unsolved architectural questions raised by the surviving ruins.

The project introduces for the first time in the Forum the new methodology of the laser scanner that will be used as the basis for digital modeling work.  (See pictures of laser scanning, point clouds and shaded model on the right.)  The digital models of the site will be integral with a building information system (BIS) able to expand as research and archaeological investigations advance.

The BIS has four major components: 1) the documentation of the existing site; 2) the archaeological investigations; 3) the restoration and conservation process; 4) the history of the medieval church. Each component makes use of digital modeling linked to databases.  The BIS includes a GIS (geographic information system) for archaeology and conservation management. 

Site photographs [Michele Chiuini]

Report 1 [Michele Chiuini]

Report 2 [Michele Chiuini]




created by: Chris Eldridge