Take a 3D Tour Through Ancient Giza, Including the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx & More

Imag­ine the pyra­mids of ancient Egypt, and a vivid image comes right to mind. But unless you hap­pen to be an Egyp­tol­o­gist, that image may pos­sess a great deal more vivid­ness than it does detail. We all have a rough sense of the pyra­mids’ size (impres­sive­ly large), shape (pyra­midi­cal), tex­ture (crumbly), and set­ting (sand), almost whol­ly derived from images cap­tured over the past cen­tu­ry. But what about the pyra­mids in their hey­day, more than 4,500 years ago? Do we know enough even to begin imag­in­ing how they looked, let alone how peo­ple made use of them? Har­vard Egyp­tol­o­gist Peter Der Manuelian does, and in the video above he gives us a tour through 3D mod­els that recon­struct the Giza pyra­mid com­plex (also known as the Giza necrop­o­lis) using both the best tech­nol­o­gy and the fullest knowl­edge avail­able today.

“You’ll see we’ve had to remove mod­ern struc­tures and exca­va­tors, debris dumps,” says Der Manuelian as the cam­era flies, drone­like, in the direc­tion of the Great Sphinx. “We stud­ied the Nile, and we had to move it much clos­er to the Giza pyra­mids, because in antiq­ui­ty, the Nile did flow clos­er. And we’ve tried to rebuild each and every struc­ture.”

Of the Sphinx, this mod­el boasts “the most accu­rate recon­struc­tion that has ever been attempt­ed so far,” and Der Manuelian shows it in two pos­si­ble col­ors schemes, one with only the head paint­ed, one with the entire body paint­ed in “the red­dish brown reserved for male fig­ures.” He also shows the pyra­mid tem­ple of Khafre, both in the near-com­plete­ly ruined state in which it exists today, and in full dig­i­tal recon­struc­tion, com­plete with seat­ed stat­ues the Fourth-Dynasty pharaoh Khafre him­self.

The mod­el accom­mo­dates more than just the built envi­ron­ment. Der Manuelian shows a mod­el bark with anoth­er stat­ue being car­ried into one of the cham­bers, explain­ing that it allows researchers to deter­mine “whether or not it’s big enough or small enough to actu­al­ly fit between the doors of the tem­ple.” Else­where in the mod­el we see a re-enact­ment of the “Open­ing of the Mouth cer­e­mo­ny,” the “rean­i­ma­tion cer­e­mo­ny for the deceased king, meant to mag­i­cal­ly and rit­u­al­ly bring him back to life for the nether­world.” The ren­der­ing takes place inside the tem­ple of the Pyra­mid of Khu­fu, peo­pled with human char­ac­ters. But “how many should there be? What should they be wear­ing? Where are the reg­u­lar Egyp­tians? Are they allowed any­where near this cer­e­mo­ny, or indeed are they allowed any­where near Giza at all?” The greater the detail in which researchers recon­struct the ancient world, the more such ques­tions come to the sur­face.

In the video just above, Der Manuelian explains more about the impor­tance of 3D mod­el­ing to Egyp­tol­ogy: how it uses the exist­ing research, what it has helped mod­ern researchers under­stand, and the promise it holds for the future. The lat­ter includes much of inter­est even to non-Egyp­tol­o­gists, such as tourists who might like to famil­iar­ize them­selves with Giza necrop­o­lis in the days when the Open­ing of the Mouth cer­e­monies still took place — or any era of their choice — before set­ting foot there them­selves. These videos come from “Pyra­mids of Giza: Ancient Egypt­ian Art and Archae­ol­o­gy,” Der Manuelian’s online course at edX, a worth­while learn­ing expe­ri­ence if you’ve got your own such trip planned — or just the kind of fas­ci­na­tion that has gripped peo­ple around the world since the Egyp­to­ma­nia of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. The tech­nol­o­gy with which we study Egypt has advanced great­ly since then, but for many, the mys­ter­ies of ancient Egypt itself have only become more com­pelling.

via The Kid Should See This

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

What the Great Pyra­mid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleam­ing, Reflec­tive White

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Human All Too Human: A Roman Woman Vis­its the Great Pyra­mid in 120 AD, and Carves a Poem in Mem­o­ry of Her Deceased Broth­er

The Grate­ful Dead Play at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids, in the Shad­ow of the Sphinx (1978)

A Drone’s Eye View of the Ancient Pyra­mids of Egypt, Sudan & Mex­i­co

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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