University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Etruscanning 3D: an innovative project about Etruscans
Eva Pietroni, Daniel Pletinckx, Wim Hupperetz, Claudio Rufa

Last modified: 2012-02-08


Etruscanning 3D is a European project in the Culture 2007 framework, that involves a consortium of museums and research organizations from 3 European countries to explore the possibilities of new visualization techniques, in order to to re-create and restore the original context of the Etruscan graves. The project is in progress and will last until 2013.

Main objectives are:
- International cooperation in the development of presentation techniques, to be proposed during exhibitions in the Netherlands (two important exhibitions are already open in Amsterdam and in Leiden), Belgium and Germany and for permanent use in Italian museums;
- digital acquisition, digital restoration, 3D reconstructions and final communication of Etruscan graves and collections through innovative VR systems. We focus on two important Etruscan tombs: Tomba Regolini Galassi, in the Sorbo necropolis in Cerveteri, and Tomba 5 Monte Michele, in Veio.

The finds from these tombs are mostly in museum collections and the existing (empty) tombs are not always open to public. By making 3D reconstructions of the tombs and of the objects which originally were found inside, we can re-create the ancient contexts. The techniques used for 3D representation are various: laser scanning, fotogrammetry, computer graphics, according to the typology and topology of the artifacts.

A 3D reconstruction is not simply a digital replica of a real grave: we want to create an experience that can bring visitors inside the ancient etruscan mind and culture. The Regolini Galassi tomb, of the VII century B.C., is the one we have already reconstructed in 3D and implemented in a VR environment; the paper will present this work. It is one of the most remarkable Etruscan graves, famous not only for its rich contents, but also for the many objects that show the Orientalising influence. As the process of virtual reconstruction of the Regolini Galassi grave tries to visualise this tomb at the moment it was closed, we have been forced to ask ourselves very practical questions regarding the placement of the objects and their original position, their original shape and colors . We have had to re-evaluate and re-interpret all of the available, unclear, sources to seek answers to difficult questions. We explain the main steps we have applied in interpretation management. This is necessary in order to be able to update this process, to show the uncertainty in the reconstructions and, finally to enable and facilitate multidisciplinary research.

From a technical point of view the most innovative element of the VR application for the Regolini Galssi tomb is the paradigm of interaction based on natural interfaces. The public has the possibility to explore the virtual space, to get near the artifacts and listen to narrative contents from the voices of the prestigious etruscan personages buried inside,  just through the body movements, in the simplest and natural way. Walking in the space front of the projection, on a real map of the grave, he moves also in the virtual space, going deeper in the tomb, close to the objects and make storytelling emerge. 


Etruscans; Virtual Reality; digital documentation; digital restoration; natural interaction; storytelling; virtual museum; perceptive and emotional involvement