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Team Recreates Ancient Karnak, Brings Pharaohs' Complex to Life

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Digital Karnek project

The UCLA project traces the Karnak complex from its inception in 20th Century BC alongside the Nile River in Thebes.


A team of more than 24 scholars and technicians at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has created the Digital Karnak, a three-dimensional (3D) simulation of the ancient Egyptian religious complex originally built by Egyptian pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut. The 3D computer model, which was built over a two-year period for UCLA's Experiential Technologies Center (ETC), displays how the existing ruins may have originally looked and how they were altered over time as generations of pharaohs made their mark on the site that was the religious center for Thebes, the ancient Egyptian capital during the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. The model traces the site's evolution over two millennia.

Digital Karnak features a specially-designed Web interface that can show how the site may have looked at any point in time between 31 B.C. and 1951 B.C. The complex began as a single temple occupying a two-acre site, but eventually expanded to cover 69 acres and feature eight temples, 10 small chapels, 10 monumental gateways, 15 obelisks, 100 sphinxes, and a ceremonial lake.

In addition to Karnak, the ETC has digitally reconstructed several other heavily damaged historical sites, including Pompeii's Villa of the Mysteries and the Colosseum and Forum in Rome. Digital Karnak also features Quick-Time videos highlighting the processional routes of major religious ceremonies, and the model can help users see how natural meandering caused the Nile river to recede almost half a mile for Karnak, driving the complex's steady expansion.

From UCLA Today
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