GOOGLE Earth has added a new function to its 3D map collection: time travel.
Launched in the Italian capital this week, Rome has become the first ancient city documented on Google Earth, allowing internet users to visit the sprawling city as it would have appeared in 320AD when Emperor Constantine ruled over the city’s 1 million inhabitants.
Using a physical model put together by archaeologists between 1933 and 1974, the virtual ancient Rome was recreated by an international team including the University of Virginia and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Professsor Bernard Frischer, of the University of Virginia, said the project took a decade to pull together using laser scans of today’s ruined monuments and advice from archaeologists. It was completed last year.
He said the program, a “virtual time machine”, would prove an invaluable tool for the study of ancient Rome and the Roman Empire.
The computer-generated images allow visitors to dart across town without the hassle of traffic which clogs contemporary streets, cross the Tiber River, inspect the engraved marble facades and enter 11 buildings including the Senate, Forum of Julius Caesar and the Colosseum. The city’s 21-kilometre-long walls have been re-created and pop-up windows provide information on more than 250 sites.
In all, almost 7000 buildings have been re-created – a significant improvement on the roughly 300 original ruins that still stand.
Google Earth chief technology advocate Michael Jones said it was the culmination of years of work by scholars, historians, artists and others.
More than 400 million people have downloaded Google Earth since 2005.