Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A New Picture of Olympia

Using only a digital camera and image-processing software, archaeologist Phil Sapirstein of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has created 3-D models of the temple of Hera at Olympia in Greece. Photogrammetry has major advantages over manual illustration in terms of efficiency and accuracy. The technique also captures many more details of the original remains than would be possible in a line drawing. Ultimately, it is allowing Sapirstein to challenge long-held assumptions about the construction of Greek temples. To read an in-depth article about Sapirstein’s work, go to “A New View of the Birthplace of the Olympics.”

  • Photogrammetric recording of the Hera temple at Olympia is based on more than 4,200 high-resolution photographs. The first job was to survey the whole building site by mounting a camera on a pole and raising it more than 20 feet above the ground. (Sarah Murray/Digital Architecture Project (c) 2016)
  • A screenshot from the photogrammetry software showing part of the south colonnade rendered as a point cloud. Close to 10 million measurements were extracted from this area, which has two partially intact columns. (Phil Sapirstein/Digital Architecture Project (c) 2016)
  • An overview of the 3-D model produced for the temple. This is not an aerial photograph, but rather the result of more than 4,000 individual images synthesized into a high-resolution 3-D image. The photographic textures are draped back over the digital model to give it a lifelike appearance. (Phil Sapirstein/Digital Architecture Project (c) 2016)
  • A 3-D model of details from the area of the temple’s opisthodomos (a room at the rear of the temple). The model for the entire 65-by-180-foot building area is accurate to within a millimeter, and the photographic textures are rendered at a similar resolution, revealing minute details throughout the site. (Phil Sapirstein/Digital Architecture Project (c) 2016)
  • Photogrammetric models can be used to quickly and accurately generate the traditional sort of plan and elevation views typical in black-and-white archaeological line drawings made by hand. Here, four sides of one of the restored columns at the southwest corner of the temple have been projected from the 3-D models. (Phil Sapirstein/Digital Architecture Project (c) 2016)