AbstractsComputer Science

While Stands the Colosseum: A Ground-Up Exploration of Ancient Roman Construction Techniques using Virtual Reality

by Adrian Hadipriono Tan

Institution: The Ohio State University
Department: Civil Engineering
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Civil Engineering; Engineering; Computer Science; Archaeology; Architecture; History; Classical Studies; archaeology; architecture; civil engineering; engineering; Colosseum; Coliseum; computer graphics; computer-aided design; construction; digital graphics; digital simulation; history of engineering; Rome; Roman Empire; virtual reality
Record ID: 2062191
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1429228335


The construction of ancient monuments, such as the Colosseum (Coliseum) of Rome, was an enigmatic and complex process that has never been explored. Most sources about the largest ancient amphitheater focus on the historical and archaeological aspects. This dissertation seeks to elaborate on the construction methods of the Colosseum using engineering principles, based on which a digital reconstruction of the most likely of these methods in the form of a virtual-reality simulation – a process that has never been attempted before in the construction study of this ancient monument – was created.This dissertation presents a state-of-the-art and comprehensive exploration of the construction of the Colosseum, deriving and compiling information from both personal observations and a number of different historical and archaeological sources as well as findings from the monument itself. The construction processes of the Colosseum can be divided into five distinct stages: the pre-plan and plan, which details how the site of the construction was selected and drafted; the substructure, involving an analysis the best and safest alternative for constructing the foundation of the building; the hypogea or underground chambers, which provide chambers beneath the arena to house the gladiators and other contestants; the superstructure, the majority of the building which could have been built in several different ways, each of which consists of a number of organized stages; and the velarium, or roof awning, which can be installed in several different ways, resulting in different ranges of protection from the weather. After the different construction methods that may be employed for all of these stages are compared, a number of possible pathways of construction are established, and one of them is selected as the most plausible given the construction practices of the ancient Romans.The findings of the construction methods of such a majestic structure are not complete without simulations using state-of-the-art technology; virtual reality in particular is a prime candidate for this prospect. Thus, the means of creating a virtual model for presenting the construction process, which is known as the graphics pipeline, are researched and displayed in detail. The different stages for the creation process of the simulation are the possible schemes of presenting the digital assets created; the software and hardware selection, which details the possible programs that will be used in the graphics pipeline; and the implementation of the graphics pipeline itself to create the completed model, stages, and user interface. Overall, this combination of history and technology forms a pioneering and comprehensive model which details the construction processes of the Colosseum for a modern audience, and demonstrates that the hitherto unexplored engineering aspects deserve as much admiration as the monument itself.