I have always loved 3D reconstructions of ancient monuments, and still wish to acquire the skill to produce them. In archaeology, 3D models can provide a lively image to accompany the ground plans of ancient architecture, recreating sites and landscapes much as the ‘artist’s impressions’ of old. As such, they can be a great means of education and visualisation, not in the last place to impress the broader public.
Lately, however, the scholarly value of 3D technology is becoming more apparent in the form of 3D scanning. Several museums are starting to 3D scan objects in their collection, both as a means of preservation and to facilitate their study. 3D scanning can also be useful in the process of epigraphy (making facsimile drawings of inscriptions), especially where reliefs are too fragile to be traced by hand, and to avoid the distorting effects of photography.*
* See the article: J. Malatkova (2011), Searching for an undistorted template (digital epigraphy in action), in: Strudwick and Strudwick (eds.) Old Kingdom, New Perspectives: Egyptian Art and Archaeology 2750-2150 BC (Oxford: Oxbow), 192-199.
For your education and entertainment, I have collected a number of 3D projects that may be inspiring:
Giza 3D (3DVIA player required)
Grand project encompassing a significant (and growing!) area of the Giza Plateau for you to navigate.
Virtual tomb of Nakht and Menna (Unity web player required)
Two virtual New Kingdom Theban tombs, simply consisting of 2D images pasted over a 3D space, allowing you a feeling of wandering through the environment.
Virtual tomb of Nakht
Tomb of Nebamun (interactive animation)
A reconstruction of the Theban tomb of Nebamun (of which the original location is now lost), with the British Museum reliefs placed back on its walls. Unfortunately the controls are somewhat slow and cumbersome.
Raneferef Hall (video)
A short video capturing the darkness and gloom inside a ceilinged throne room.
Ancient Egypt in 3D (video)
This commercial project shows the touristic highlights of Egypt in somewhat fantastic 3D reconstructions. A good reminder that the temples where once fully colored.
Digital Karnak (QuickTime player required)
A number of videos presenting a 3D model of the temple of Karnak in different phases of its construction.
Several images giving different views of a romantic (especially with the soft lighting) reconstruction of the ancient capital of Akhenaten.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology are 3D scanning some of their objects and making them available online! Stunningly beautiful, these manipulable images make you appreciate the smaller objects, of which the museum has plenty.
Eton Myers (plugin required)
The University of Birmingham is 3D scanning part of the Eton Myers collection. Unfortunately the videos of the 3D objects are not of the highest quality.
Amarna Virtual Museum
3D objects from Amarna.
Virtual mummy of Neswaiu
Ancient Lives (exhibition)
A new exhibition at the British Museum uses stunning 3D technology to ‘unwrap’ mummies.