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See roman history come to life in 3D

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 can be a pretty difficult way for the average reader to form a mental picture.

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, just open the "Gallery" folder in the "Layers" panel and select "Ancient Rome 3D." To load the terrain and buildings, click on any yellow icon and then click the links at the bottom of the bubble.

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 6,000 3D buildings and 250 Google Earth placemarks where Google Earth explorers can learn about this fascinating period of history. Our SketchUp modeling team converted the original Rome Reborn model to SKP format, then optimized the data for display in Google Earth.

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 it is today. 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.

So go ahead – fly down to the Roman Forum and experience what it may have felt like to stand on the Rostra of Augusta to deliver 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!

Omnes viae Romam ducunt.

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