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Research and teaching project of the Winckelmann-Institut of the Humboldt-Universität of Berlin in cooperation with the Excellence Cluster TOPOI
The Ancient Forum Romanum is one of the main attractions during any visit to Rome. Every day hundreds of visitors explore the Forum Romanum and are captivated by the atmospheric ruins and the historical significance of this place: Here once lay the pubic and political centre of the metropolis, here policies were crafted and history was made. Nowadays the history of Ancient Rome is still pulsating throughout this place with extraordinary intensity. However, when one is faced with the idyllic ruins of the excavation site at this present day, it is difficult to develop an adequate understanding of this Ancient square: How did the Ancients perceive it, how did it present itself as the stage of political action and societal communication, and how exactly did it function as the public centre of this unique Ancient metropolis? These are the questions that the excavation site often leaves its visitors with. And it is these questions that Classical Archaeology has been trying to answer for a long time with the aid of reconstructions.
As a research & teaching project, “digital Forum Romanum” aims to reconstruct the lost visual appearance of the Ancient Forum Romanum through a digital model – and especially: to make it understandable again. Since 2011 teachers as well as students of the Winckelmann-Institut of the Humboldt University of Berlin have been working on a scholarly-critical 3D-reconstruction of the Forum in cooperation with the excellence cluster TOPOI: The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations and the “Architekturreferat” of the German Archaeological Institute Berlin. A particular emphasis has been placed upon the transformation of the Forum, which had repeatedly been reshaped and reinvented as a space of public communication and political representation. Only a renewed visualisation of this process of constant alteration can make it possible for us to comprehend the Forum’s historical significance and to understand the excavation site – today a motionless ruin – from a modern perspective.
The digital reconstruction of the Forum is based upon intensive scholarly research and examination of all the available evidence and data (material remains on site, excavation records as well as literary, epigraphical and pictorial sources). The work on the reconstructions of individual buildings or topographical relations frequently yielded new insights, new answers to existing problems and raised issues that have hitherto been sparsely observed. Thus the model does not only present a visualisation of the current state of our knowledge; it also aims to identify open questions and problems so that the scholarly discussion associated with the Forum Romanum (which has been strongly advanced by the model) can come to the fore.
This dynamic knowledge is supposed to serve multiple interests within research and teaching and allow for a critical examination of the Forum Romanum and its excavation site in Rome. Accordingly, it will be possible to access the results of our project freely on the internet at all times. Another way we intend to share this internet platform with the public will be to open it up to extensions and revisions thorugh outsiders. Research on the Forum Romanum will never end. In the time to come the digital Forum model will be able to incorporate the expected extensions and revisions; ideally it will develop into an international platform, which facilitates exchange and open discussion about the reconstruction of the Forum and Romanum, and situate the work that was initiated by the projected within a more broad scholarly scope.