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3DVisA Index of 3D Projects: Archaeology

Digital Karnak Project

Keywords: Karnak, Thebes, Ancient Egypt, Virtual Reality, VRML.

The colossal site of Karnak is one of the largest temple complexes in the world. Its rich architectural, ritual, religious, economic, social and political history has no parallel. The Amun-Ra precinct, which includes a great number of individual temples, shrines and processional ways, stands as a micro-cosmos of ancient Egypt.

Akhmenu temple of Thutmose III and the'white chapel' of Senwosret I

Fig. 1. A. Interior of the visualisation of the Akhmenu temple of Thutmose III (18th Dynasty). B. View of the visualisation of the 'white chapel' of Senwosret I (12th Dynasty). UCLA. Reproduced with kind permission.

The Digital Karnak Project, run by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) aims to make the site of Karnak more accessible to students and instructors in the English-speaking world. The features of the project website have been designed to provide college classrooms (and the interested public) with easily accessible, up-to-date, expert material relating to the temple precinct. As part of this goal, a 3D Virtual Reality model of the site was constructed, offering students a way to view the temple: reign-by-reign, following the complex patterns of royal construction, modification, and destruction that are now obscured by the more recent building activities. Footage of this model, as well as original videos and maps, are accompanied by thematic essays written and reviewed by Egyptologists. This material supplies students and instructors with reliable information in a digital and visually dynamic format. A simplified version of the Virtual Reality model of the temple is also made available in Google Earth, for an interactive experience.

Temple of Amun-Ra

Fig. 2. A. Bird's-eye view of the visualisation of the temple of Amun-Ra in the reign of Thutmose IV (18th Dynasty). B. Bird's-eye view of the visualisation of the temple of Amun-Ra in the Greco-Roman period. UCLA. Reproduced with kind permission.

The Karnak visualisation was designed using Multi-Gen Creator 3.4, a program designed for real-time 3D modelling. The model was viewed and presented in Virtual Reality Navigator (vrNav) 2, version 7.13. After its completion, the model was exported to two common modelling programs, 3D Studio Max and Maya, where the video animations and still frame images were produced. The model was also converted, decimated, and exported to Google Earth for view on the world wide web.

Sphinx way and the 'red chapel'

Fig. 3. A. Visualisation of the possible location of the sphinx statues at the temple's western gateway during the tenure of the 'High Priest of Amun' Pinedjem (21st Dynasty). B. Interior of the visualisation of the 'red chapel' of Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty). UCLA. Reproduced with kind permission.

Project dates: 2006-2008

Resource status: The visualisation of the Karnak Temple is a free educational resource available on the project website. The website has QuickTime video footage of the visualisation, as well as a Google Earth version of the model. The project hopes to make access to the high-resolution version of the model available to scholars on its website in 2009.

Contributors: A team of noted Egyptologists, educators, architects, and technologists from the University of California at Los Angeles collaborated on the Digital Karnak Project. A full list of contributors is available on the project website. The project is directed by UCLA professors Dr Diane Favro and Dr Willeke Wendrich. Dr Elaine Sullivan oversaw the coordination of the project and provided the Egyptology content.

The Digital Karnak Project is funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and the Steinmetz Family Trust. The project was made possible through UCLA's Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE). For more information on IDRE's Humanities, Arts and Architecture, Social and Information Sciences Core (IDRE-HASIS) visit www.idre.ucla.edu/hasis.

Sources and further details:

Digital Karnak Project website.

Elaine Sullivan and Willeke Wendrich, 'An Offering to Amun-Ra: Building a Virtual Reality Model of Karnak', in: Nigel Strudwick (ed.), Proceedings of the 2008 Informatique et Egyptologie Computer Group. Forthcoming, 2009.

Related projects:

Dr Diane Favro is the director of the UCLA Experiential Technologies Center (ETC). Information about other visualisation projects spearheaded by the ETC can be viewed at the centre's website.

Dr Willeke Wendrich is the director of the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE), an online reference resource for students and professional Egyptologists. Information on the project and links to article entries can be viewed at www.uee.ucla.edu.

Information kindly provided by Dr Elaine Sullivan, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA. 4 December 2008. Edited by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel. Last updated: 17 December 2008.

3DVisA gratefully acknowledges the help of Elaine Sullivan with preparation of this record.

UCLA and 3DVisA, 2008.

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