The use of real-time visual simulation reconstructions such as the Herodian Temple Mount project is forging new opportunities for the exploration of ancient sites. The technology offers three key benefits to more traditional means of representation and exhibition: it challenges the archaeologists to think about excavation information and reconstruction questions in three dimensions; the reconstruction options can be easily modeled, analyzed, and evaluated; and, the scholarly information can be readily shared with the public.
Excavation information is typically recorded with two-dimensional drawings (plans, sections, and elevations) that may later be translated into perspective renderings or physical models. While each of these methods of representation has their advantages, it was not until the advent of computers that three-dimensional forms could be easily developed and exploited. The modeling process challenges archeologists to fully resolve their two-dimensional excavation drawings in three dimensions. Thus, the relationship between plan, section, and elevation is heightened, ensuring a more thoughtful reconstruction. The precision required in computer modeling also challenges the archaeologists to explore detailed reconstruction alternatives. Unlike controlled perspective renderings, the areas of uncertainty in a computer reconstruction must be addressed and a decision reached about how best to present that information. This is especially true with real-time simulation models because the user has unlimited freedom of movement within the modeled environment.
Another key benefit of real-time visual simulation technology is that there is no limit to the number of times the reconstruction can be manipulated, immediately analyzed, and then modified. Ongoing reconstruction ideas can be shared as desired with excavation team members and outside scholars using the simulation, and feedback can be quickly incorporated into the model and analyzed. Screen images may also be captured with no onerous rendering overhead. In the event of a new discovery at the Temple Mount site, the real-time model at the Davidson Center can be quickly updated and the results of the new excavations made immediately available to visitors. This advantage was illustrated when two significant discoveries made during the model's development prompted changes to the Royal Stoa.
The greatest advantage of the real-time simulation model on display in the Davidson Center is that it allows visitors to experience the Herodian Temple Mount in a manner never before possible. Visitors can easily 'place' themselves within a digitally accurate perspective representation of the site and dynamically move through the monumental spaces, thereby gaining a greater understanding of the complex's temporal and spatial qualities. This ability to interact with the model is critical to the experience. Because the individual frames of a real-time simulation model are rendered at the moment of interaction, the user has complete freedom of movement within the environment and can control their own simulation experience.
We hope that this short discussion about the real-time visual simulation reconstruction model has familiarized you with both this new technology and the Herodian Temple Mount as it existed about 2,000 years ago. Please enjoy the rest of your visit to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park website.