Pompeii in the 21st Century

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Pompeii in the 21st Century

By William Caraher, Associate Professor, History Department

East Asia Room, Chester Fritz Library Wednesday May 4, 6pm

When most people think of the ancient site of Pompeii, they think of the ancient Roman ruins buried by the volcanic power of nearby Mt. Vesuvius. Some may imagine pith-helmeted archaeologists pondering the well-preserved remains of a Roman house, shop, or civic space.

Others still may recall from an archaeology class the idea of the “the Pompeii Premise” which describes ruins frozen in time by some sudden catastrophe. For students and enthusiasts alike Pompeii, and archaeology more generally, invites us to traveling back in time to find out whether ancient civilizations can offer solutions for today’s challenges.

Despite the promise of the past, few people think of Pompeii or archaeology as the domain of cutting edge technology. Instead, they picture dirty field work, long hours in the museum, and book-strewn offices of 21st faculty and students.

Nevertheless scholars and students have come to rely ever more heavily on digital technology to collaborate both across the world and through the centuries. Many of the tools that archaeologists use today evoke scientific laboratories or engineering field sites.

For the past several years, UND archaeologist Bill Caraher has worked to bring archaeology from the ragged edge of obscurity to the cutting edge of technology. Next week, he’ll host Professor Eric Poehler of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a leader among a new generation of scholars using technology to uncover, document, and reconstruct the ancient world.

Professor Poehler has worked on some of the most technologically sophisticated archaeological projects in the world in Greece and Italy and will share perspectives on how to technology is providing new insights into one of the most exciting and challenging archaeological sites in the world.

Prof. Poehler will discuss his new project in Pompeii, the Pompeii Quadriporticus Project, which will wholly replace the trowel, drawing board and tape measure with the iPad, photogrammetry, and Geographic Information Systems software. Within 10 years these tools will also put entire libraries of reference material at the archaeologist’s fingertips while inside the ancient city, dissolving the distinction between fieldwork and the library,

The talk is sponsored by the Department of History, the Cyprus Research Fund, and the Working Group in Digital and New Media.

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