Rebeka Vital

(University of California, Los Angeles, USA)

Casestudy: Reconstructing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from Josephus writings For Bar-Ilan University by the CVR lab at UCLA
Scientific Committee: Joseph Schwartz (Bar-Ilan University), Diane Favro (UCLA), Berny Frischer (UCLA)
Architectural Team: Dean Abernathy, Rebeka Vital

“Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve … The temple had doors also at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height with the temple itself.” Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XV, Ch 11. How accurate were Josephus descriptions of the Temple of Herod? Is it possible to have such large doors? What was the scale of this building compared to the human scale? These are only a few from the questions that come to mind when reading Josephus descriptions of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. The only way to answer all these questions is to visualize all this textual material. The Cultural VR lab of UCLA was commissioned to create a Virtual Reality model for a research team of scholars in Bar-Ilan University. This model is a research tool that enabled the committee to have a visual version of Josephus descriptions of the Temple of Herod. The scholars were able to “experience” the Temple, to view its scale and to observe how its architectural components were coming together. During the reconstruction process the VR modeling team was challenged to interpret the written descriptions into three dimensions, which in many cases seemed exaggerated and unrealistic for a coherent building. This paper examines the process of a virtual reconstruction from textual sources, as well as the use of a VR model as a research tool in architectural history. It brings forth the challenges of reconstructing from textual descriptions and evaluates VR as a tool to validate the accuracy of the written source.