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Explore Ancient Rome Online With Google Earth

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Rome -- Quite obviously, two millennia ago there were no satellites to beam pictures of Rome. But thanks to the wonders of Google Earth that lets you travel back in time to see Ancient Rome and all of its architecture in full 3D. Search engine giant Google has added a fresh twist to its popular 3D map tool, resurrected ancient Rome online that meticulously reconstructs nearly 7,000 buildings of ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, the Forum and the Circus Maximus, offering millions of users the chance to visit a virtual ancient Rome, officials said Wednesday.

Google Earth’s “Ancient Rome 3-D,” which was launched Wednesday at a news conference in city hall, has been founded on a simulation created by an international team led by the University of Virginia and the University of California.

Google has rebuilt the expansive city -- colonized by more than one million people under Emperor Constantine, as long ago as 320 AD. The feature was developed by the “Rome Reborn Project” which intends to reconstruct a 3D representation of the ancient city of Rome, at the peak of the city’s development.

To rediscover the 3D city of Ancient Rome for yourself; the program offers users access to maps and global satellite imagery, users can zoom around the map to visit the Forum of Julius Caesar, stand in the centre of the Colosseum or swoop over the Basilica.

Researchers behind the project claim it adds to five centuries of knowledge.

“This is another leap forward in creating a virtual time machine,” said Bernard Frischer of Virginia University, which worked with Google on the Roman reconstruction.

“The project is a continuation of five centuries of research by scholars, architects and artists since the Renaissance, who have attempted to restore the ruins of the ancient city with words, maps and images,” he said.

Making use of the laser scans of today’s ruined monuments and advice from archaeologists, experts worked for about a decade to reconstruct ancient Rome within its 13-mile-long (21-kilometer-long) walls, said Frischer.

The replication, which was accomplished in 2007, was aimed as a scholarly tool to study the ancient buildings and run experiments on them -- for example to determine their crowd capacity.

Pop-up windows provide information on the monuments and visitors also can enter some of the most important sites, including the Senate and the Colosseum, to observe the architecture and marble decorations, Google Italia and the city of Rome said in a joint statement.

Also involved in the “Ancient Rome 3D” project was Past Perfect Productions, which reconstructs archaeological and historical sites through virtual reality.

Joel Myers, the firm’s chief executive, said: “Cultural heritage, although based in the past, lives in the present, as it forms our identity.”

“It is therefore our responsibility to ensure its conservation, to nourish it and make it accessible, with the objective of promoting global understanding. Ancient Rome in 3D is a major step towards this goal,” he added.

“Whether you are a student taking your first ancient history class, a historian who spends your life researching ancient civilizations, or just a history buff, access to this 3D model in Google Earth will help everyone learn more about ancient Rome,” said Bruce Polderman, Google Earth 3D production manager.

Frischer said the work’s publication on the Internet means it can be used for broader educational purposes. Google has commenced a competition for U.S. teachers offering prizes for the best curriculum that uses the new tool.

More ancient sites may be available in the future on the Web, and Frischer said his team is already working on a reconstruction of colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

“It makes little sense for ancient Rome to be the only ancient site offered in Google Earth,” he said. “It offers an ideal platform on which we can publish such work, be it of Giza in Old Kingdom Egypt or Athens in the age of Pericles.”

The new map was announced at an event in the Italian capital, and the modern day Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, offered the project fulsome praise.

“It is an incredible occasion to share the striking greatness of ancient Rome, a perfect example of how the new technologies can be ideal allies of our history, archaeology and cultural identity,” Mr Alemanno said.

Take a steal a look on the net at: http://earth.google.com/rome/index.html