Domitilla-Catacomb:

Status and Progress of the Project 2009 


Abb. 16

In 2009, three further campaigns were conducted in order to integrate the above-ground terrain and to add insufficiently recorded details in the catacomb. The enormous data volume now consists of about 1900 scanning positions, for its handling and comprehensive exploitation in the archaeological work totally new procedures had and still have to be developed. 

As a start, a first digital master plan of the catacomb was generated from the 3D-point cloud (Fig. 16), which was an eagerly expected, important result. In order to use the precise scan data as directly and unaltered as possible, the Domitilla-team was enhanced by new collaboration partners: the Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms of the Technical University of Vienna and the company Imagination, which are jointly developing the point-cloud viewer „ Scanopy“. With its help extremely large point-clouds can be viewed in real time; the goal is to further develop this program according to the needs of archaeologists and building researchers.

In regard to the analysis of the paintings a first proposal for the reconstruction of the sanctuary of the main saints Nereus and Achilleus could be worked out, probably the version from Damasianian times (Fig. 17). The path that the pilgrims used for the worship of the martyrs – a kind of circuit over an especially constructed entrance staircase – can be retraced virtually in the model, despite the today heavily altered structure.

Fig. 17

Current Work

For many of the until now completed demanding work steps new approaches had to and still have to be found; many solutions are being applied for the first time resp. in such a complex manner. At the same time the archaeological goals are not being neglected: the work on the repertory of the paintings is in its final phase and the textured models are being prepared in the established mode as printed plans and tables. In a new joint FFG-project named “Terapoints”, special tools can now be perfected for the point-cloud viewer Scanopy (see above) (Fig. 18)

Fig. 18

Not only free movement in the entire model of the catacomb is now possible, but also functions such as the measurement of distances (Fig. 19), the marking and erasing of parts of the point cloud as well as sensible manipulations of the data such as the colouring/copying/erasing/masking of singular grave rooms/corridors/regions of the catacomb, the creation and exporting of intersection lines and connecting the model with databanks.

Fig. 19
Fig. 20

The high resolution 3D-models with photo texture, which are being generated of all areas with paintings, can be integrated into the overall model. The example of cubicle 19 also shows virtually re-integrated fragments that are now in the museum (Fig. 20). Since the surface has been scanned as well, the topographic context is directly available. The entire organism of the catacomb is now accessible in a totally new form, which can not only be comprehended by researchers.