With important assistance of the RIEGL VZ-400i: Scan campaign "Domitilla Catacomb Rome" successfully completed


A team of the DAI (Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut) Rome and TU Vienna explores the surface of the largest Roman catacomb in a 3D spatial model.
Important assistance was provided by the RIEGL VZ-400i 3D Terrestrial Laser Scanner.

Rome's largest catacomb, the Domitilla Catacomb, with more than 12 kilometres of underground corridors, had already been documented in the years 2006-2012 using state-of-the-art 3D laser scanning techniques - already then with the active support of RIEGL. The huge point cloud visualizing its four floors makes the catacomb virtually walkable and above all explorable.

© N. Zimmermann – I. Mayer

But so far, the aboveground area was missing in the overall plan – which is necessary to establish a connection to the current course of roads and buildings, but also to the terrain model of the somewhat hilly surface. This is important not only for the reconstruction of the connection between the above-ground and underground necropolis, but also for the planning of protective measures, for example in the event of water ingress or road construction.

At the invitation of the "Pontifical Commission for Holy Archaeology" (responsible on the part of the Vatican), this work could be carried out in proven teamwork between DAI Rome and TU Vienna between January 20 and 25, 2020.

For years now, the DAI Rome (N. Zimmermann, previously ÖAW Vienna) has been working together with building researchers of the “FG Baugeschichte und Bauforschung” of the TU Wien (Irmengard Mayer, Eva Kodzman) on the documentation and research of the Domitilla Catacomb.

The research topics are - after murals and inscriptions - currently mainly aspects of grave statistics and economic archaeology as well as especially the topographical-chronological development of the catacomb.

Above all, the integration of the surface scan into the overall plan helps in the considerations about which access routes were used to access the staircases of the catacomb from the “Via Ardeatina”, and how long they were in operation.

© Photo N. Zimmermann


© Photo I. Mayer

The work was made possible by the 3D laser scanner (model VZ 400i), kindly provided by RIEGL Laser Measurements Systems (Horn, Austria), as often before. The results at the end of the first working day show the dense point cloud of the recorded area of the surface with the network of measuring positions.

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