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Ancient Rome rises on Google Earth

3D model travels back to 320AD

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Google Earth has hooked up with the University of Virginia to produce a 3D rendition of Rome in the year 320AD featuring 250 "highly detailed" and 5000+ other buildings:

According to the BBC, the new feature was unveiled at an event in the Italian capital, at which the current mayor Gianni Alemanno enthused: "It's an incredible opportunity to share the stunning greatness of ancient Rome, a perfect example of how the new technologies can be ideal allies of our history, archaeology and cultural identity."

Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia said: "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."

The modelling is, the Google Earth Blog notes, based on a physical model of the city dubbed the “Plastico di Roma Antica” created between 1933 and 1974. As well as exteriors, the virtual city displays 11 buildings with viewable interiors, including the Colosseum and the temple of Vesta.

To access the ancient city, you'll need to activate "Ancient Rome in 3D" in Google Earth's "Gallery" layer and thereafter download the terrain, then the buildings. Google warns that the 250 detailed building models boast a "lot of complexity", so you "you may need a newer machine with a fast graphics card to get these to load and update well". It recommends a system minimum of Dual-Core 2.0GHz CPU + 3 GB RAM + High End GPU with 512 MB RAM, in case you were wondering.

To get the best from your Roman tour, Google also recommends you turn off the "3D Buildings" layer, after which should should be able to glide gracefully around the city. ®

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