Explorers explore an ancient Greek city in Sicily with 3D technology

Scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) are using 3D technology to conduct research that could potentially rewrite the history of Greek Sicily.

For the past year, the team has used advanced digital techniques to study the ancient city of Helloros, dating back to the eighth century BC. Visualizations from the study will soon be available to the public through virtual immersive reality.

The project is a multi-year collaboration between the University’s Institute for Digital Exploration (IDEx) and the Archaeological and Environmental Parks of Syracuse, Aloro, Villa del Tellaro and Acre.

USF humanities professor and IDEx director David Tanasi, an internationally recognized archaeologist, designed the fieldwork. Tanassi is known for discovering the chemical signatures of the oldest wines and olive oils in European and Mediterranean history, and for conducting genomic studies on trench fever in Roman times.

This summer, Tanasi led a group of five USF graduate students from the Department of History and a team of archaeologists, computer scientists and geophysicists to conduct the initial integrated analysis. The team has identified previously unknown parts of Heloros’ urban layout, which now show new houses, streets and public buildings.

The team has worked across time zones from Sicily to Tampa, Florida, as researchers perform 3D digitization at the archaeological site and share data with their colleagues at the IDEx laboratory.

“The house team pre-processed the raw 3D data and sent it back to us with comments and instructions to continue,” Tanasi said in a university press release. “It’s a kind of ‘hybrid fieldwork,’ where we streamed live from the site and held multiple team meetings.”

The on-site team used high-tech 3D digitization techniques, spatial analysis and geophysical possibilities to map long-undiscovered sections of the site that had never been fully studied. The rest of the city is still underground.

Drone photogrammetry of the sacred precincts of Heloros, with the sanctuary of Asklepios and the sanctuary of Demeter, the Greek goddess of fertility.

“The resulting high-resolution 3D models will be used to monitor site conditions over time,” Tanasi said. “We will also be able to test research hypotheses in a virtual environment and promote this important archaeological site to the general public online.”

High-resolution data is being collected and will eventually be shared by the IDEx team to aid in future archaeological excavations.

The team will process fallout data collected from laser scanning and ground penetrating radar and release 3D models and geographic information system visualizations online. These virtual reconstructions will also incorporate data obtained through traditional topographic methods to improve previous archaeological site maps.

Heloros covers an estimated area of ​​20 acres of which scientists have discovered about five percent.

Researchers plan to complete digital scanning and subsurface mapping of the entire city in 2022 and begin traditional archaeological excavations in 2024.

For more information about the project, visit the university’s website.

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