Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ancient Cologne goes digital

Like many European cities, Cologne has a rich Roman history that lives more in the mind's eye than in actual physical form. A city like Cologne has been in constant occupation since Roman times, so the monuments left standing are usually few and far between. Most people associate Cologne with the Dom as opposed to the Roman-German Museum across the street. The latest project to come out of that museum hopefully will let visitors see ancient Cologne in a new, digital light.

Cologne, or Oppidum Ubiorum (Settlement of the Ubii) was founded in 39 BCE as a military base and Germanic colony. The settlement grew, eventually being renamed Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensis (Colony of Claudius and the altar of Agrippina) during the reign of the emperor Claudius and was adorned with all the trappings of a Roman town. Perhaps the most infamous event in the history of ancient Cologne is the fact that it became the capitol of the short lived Gallic Empire.

The digital views of ancient Cologne are very impressive; be sure to check out the video. Using advanced technology in the study of the ancient world is nothing new, but it seems that new and innovative uses for technology are happening more and more in the fields of archaeology, history and related disciplines.

Another great project just announced is the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri from Duke University; again we see technology put to use for the study of the ancient world. This project is geared toward scholars as opposed to museum patrons, but the use of technology, especially the Internet in this case, is a great step in the right direction. I consider the Internet to be one of the greatest inventions of all time. Never in the history of mankind, has so much information and knowledge been so readily available to millions. The Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri is a great way to bring scholars together from around the world and spread knowledge, and the digital ancient Cologne project is a great way to bring people to the world of the past. Technology and ancient studies definitely have the ability to work together, and who knows what next great project we will see.