Samuel M. Paley / Donald H. Sanders

(University at Buffalo – SUNY, USA / Learning Sites, Inc., USA)

When I was approached by Dr. Donald Sanders of Learning Sites, Inc. with a proposal to adapt the work that Janusz Meuszynksi, Richard Sobolewski and I had done, by traditional means, reconstructing the sculptural program and architectural design of the 9th-Century BC palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, I was not at all familiar with the advances in digital technology applicable to the analyses of archaeological data or the publication of archaeological reports.
This paper in essence is a summary of what I have learned. I will review what “hardware” and “software” applications were made available to me for detailed interpretations of the palace and what new insights could be gained through digitizing the evidence, creating interactive databases and virtual reality environments. By applying new methods that included digitizing old maps and plans, linking plans to satellite images, testing various spatial layouts with CAD software, creating virtual worlds, looking at the palace from the point of view of an Assyrian, changing the lighting in the 3D models, adding digital binoculars, and real-time navigation tools we were able to understand the building complex in ways far beyond that possible with traditional pencil and paper approaches. I will briefly summarize our use technologies steeped in the buzzwords of the new millennium, virtual reality, haptic sensors, gaming engines, java-based linked databases, and o2c navigation software.
Since its inception, the project has expanded from visualizations specific to PCs to applications that run on supercomputers. As an example, I will also discuss where such projects can go by including immersive virtual reality technologies, such as the Immersadesk™ and CAVE systems.
The paper will conclude with an overview of what new knowledge about the Assyrians has been gained as evidence that the new digital technologies really do deliver much more than pretty pictures of the past.