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Warwick scientists help restore Roman statue

Scientists from the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick are helping to restore a 2000 year old Roman statue to her former glory.

The statue was discovered by the Herculaneum Conservation Project in the ancient ruins of Herculaneum, a town preserved in the same eruption that buried nearby Pompeii in AD 79. It is thought to represent a wounded Amazon warrior, complete with painted hair and eyes preserved by the ash that buried the town.

Archaeologists at the University of Southampton and the Herculaneum Conservation Project contacted WMG after hearing about the Group’s expertise in three key technologies: high resolution laser scanning, rapid prototyping and ultra-realistic computer graphics.

Dr Mark Williams, a leader in laser measurement, took his team and equipment to the site. He said: “The statue is an incredible find. Although its age alone makes it valuable, it is unique because it has retained the original painted surface, preserved under the volcanic material that buried Herculaneum.”

Researchers from WMG, Southampton and Herculaneum are now scanning, modelling and digitally recreating the Amazon statue using state-of-the-art equipment to accurately measure every surface of the bust and translate that information into a computer model. Dr Greg Gibbons, also of WMG, then used rapid prototyping to create a physical 3D model of the head revealing the smallest detail.

Further recording was carried out on site by experts in archaeological computing from Southampton, led by Dr Graeme Earl and they are now using techniques derived from the film industry to digitally recreate the original carved and painted surfaces.

Professor Alan Chalmers, head of WMG’s visualisation team and an expert in ultra-realistic graphics, will then use the computer model to reproduce the exact lighting and environmental conditions under which the statue would have originally been created and displayed.

Professor Chalmers said: “Our work will be used both for educational and research purposes to give people new insights into the statue’s design, to provide a record for conservators and to explore how it may have been appreciated over 2000 years ago.”

WMG, an academic department at the University of Warwick, is a provider of innovative solutions to industry, supporting some of the most advanced research, development and training projects in the world.

  • For video and images visit the WMG website.


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