Non-metric digital reconstruction of Roman mosaics excavated in the city of Ravenna (Italy)

Mariapaola Monti, Giuseppe Maino

Abstract

During the excavations carried out in summer 2011 in Piazza Anita Garibaldi in Ravenna, during construction of the new underground  waste  containers,  five  rooms  decorated  with  mosaic  floors  were  found,  probably  dating back to  the  early Roman Empire (1st-2ndcentury AD). The mosaics were removed for restoration and musealisation, however –given the size of the large lacunae-it would not be possible to reintegrate them in a traditional restoration without creating arbitrary reconstructions. Therefore, we opted for a digital reconstruction of the lacunae, attempting virtual restoration hypotheses for the recovered mosaics. Subsequently, it was possible to grasp the trend of the figuration and how it could have appeared in the past. The characteristics of many mosaics, such as the symmetry and the repetition of geometric patterns, make them suitable for both a simulated integration and are construction by the analogies of the pattern. As a matter of fact, we used simple and easily accessible software to perform this work.  The purpose of this digital workflow was to give an example of virtual processing useful for conservators and restorers, as well as for scholars (archaeologists, art historians, etc.) that can be carried out without specific information technology expertise and computer skills. After the images were acquired digitally, we were able to proceed with the reconstruction of the floor, by taking into account the geometric motifs that make up the mosaic assembly and that made the recomposition the most reliable. The virtual restoration also provides the  opportunity  of  simulating  the  type  of  integration  and  the  colour  so  that  scholars,  restorers  and  conservators  may evaluate the final appearance of the work and the different aesthetic choices. The virtual restoration is finally considered an essential tool for the enhancement of cultural heritage.

Highlights:

  • An example of virtual restoration is presented relevant to Roman mosaics recently found in Ravenna (Italy).

  • A simulated integration by the analogies of the geometric patterns present in the mosaics allows a reliable reconstruction.

  • Virtual restoration results in a useful tool for enhancement, knowledge and improvement of understanding of mosaics by the general public.


Keywords

virtual archaeology; mosaics; digital image processing; cultural heritage; documentation

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