Roman Spolia in 3D: High Resolution Leica 3D Laser-scanner meets ancient building structures

Christine Pappelau (Berlin)

Digital Classicist/ICS Work in Progress Seminar, Summer 2009

Friday 17th July at 16:30, at British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DW

The spolia of the ancient Septizonium at Rome have been used as construction material in various buildings and monuments of the Roman topography. The spolia decorated monuments of the High Renaissance with their ancient splendor like the Cappella del Presepe of Pope Sixtus V. in the basilica Santa Maria Maggiore and they served as material for the restoration of ancient monuments for example the basements of the Colonna Trajana or of the Obelisk of the Piazza S. Pietro. The Leica 3D Laserscanner will reveal the exact measures of the spolia that have been incorporated at the surface of those monuments. Based on highly exact 3D models of the monuments it will be possible to define the measures and materials of the spolia – due to the different reflection grades of the laser beam. Besides, 3D models of many important historical Roman buildings will be created which could also be used for other projects e.g. the CVRLab (; cf. article of Santa Maria Maggiore) or the Rome Reborn Project (

The high resolution technology of the Leica 3D-Laserscanner promises very exact results in building modeling which are also to be used to reconstruct the original context of the spolia and their original material extent. The created models will serve as basis for further reconstructional approaches. In particular the reconstruction of the original monument of the Septizonium or “Septizodium” at the slopes of the southwestern Palatine hill is controversially discussed until now. The modeling of the spolia, the remaining materials and pieces of travertine, perperine and various sorts of marbles supports approaches to reconstruct parts of the monument out of its spolia itself. In combination with the results of the excavations made at the site of the Septizonium and many very exact measured representational drawings of Septizonium by architects and artists of Renaissance times we gain a new perspective of reconstruction. This approach is primarily leaded by technical and spatial aspects which give each single spolia a new significance for further scientific research and perception.

The project is based on a joint venture between arts and natural sciences which has been discussed fiercely in the last decade in Europe. The project of the “Roman spolia in 3D” comprises both approaches. It thus functions on a highly interdisciplinary level. Arts and natural sciences are not understood as competing sciences but form a fresh approach towards the scientific subject of the spolia.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)