From the Ashes: Southampton scientists restore Amazon warrior

A 2000-year-old painted Roman statue, discovered in the ancient ruins of Herculaneum in 2006, is being digitally restored to her original glory by scientists from the University of Southampton, University of Warwick and the Herculaneum Conservation Project.

Using the latest digital technology to record and study the statue, University archaeologists and the Herculaneum Conservation Project, along with the University of Warwick's Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), were able to create digital and physical 3-D models of the head revealing the smallest detail.

Experts in archaeological computing from the University of Southampton, led by Dr Graeme Earl of the Archaeological Computing Research Group in the School of Humanities, used a novel form of photography to provide an extremely detailed record of the texture and colour of the painted surfaces. The electronics and software required was developed by members of the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia Group, and in particular Kirk Martinez.

Cutting-edge digital techniques are vital to the recording of cultural heritage material, since so much remains unstudied or too fragile to analyse. The work at Southampton attempts to bridge the gap between computing and archaeology and provide an otherwise impossible view of how unique objects and places from our past may have appeared, and even how they felt and sounded.

The head of the statue was discovered in the ancient ruins of Herculaneum in 2006, a town preserved in the same eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried nearby Pompeii in AD 79, during works by the Herculaneum Conservation Project in the area of the Roman basilica. The project is an initiative of the Packard Humanities Institute, in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei and the British School at Rome.

The statue is believed to represent a wounded Amazon warrior, complete with painted hair and eyes.

To learn more about this project visit the ACRG Herculaneum Amazon Project website.

HOMEPAGE PHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Giordano/HCP, with the kind permission of Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei

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Digital representation of the statue

Digital representation of the statue

A CAD-generated computer rendering of the statue head.

"Our work at Southampton bridges the gap between computing and archaeology in bringing the best that colleagues in engineering, electronics and computer science have to offer to unique artefacts from our past."

Dr Graeme Earl, Archaeological Computing Research Group
The head of the statue

The head of the statue

The statue pictured in situ on the site at Herculaneum.

Archaeologist onsite

Archaeologist onsite

An Archaeologist records data from the discovery site.