Insula dell’Ara Coeli

Laser scan showing different floors of the insula
Laser scan showing different floors of the insula

The 2nd c. AD Insula dell’Ara Coeli, which stands five floors high at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, is the only surviving extant example of a Roman apartment building in Rome, although such structures must have once dominated the cityscape. Yet the insula has never been studied in full: a small-scale excavation and some basic consolidation work were carried out in the 1960s, but much of the building remains uninvestigated. This state of affairs prevents any serious conservation projects from being undertaken, and the site remains open to the elements and inaccessible to the public.

This summer we recorded the building in order to produce an accessible virtual record of the remains. Laser scanning technique was used for this purpose; it took place over six days and incorporated 205 individual scans.

The work was undertaken in collaboration with the Sovraintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali. The scan data allows for an insight into the formation of the building and the layout of the rooms in relation to one another. Importantly the scan data is able to identify features that are hard to access and view on site and will be used for future analysis.

Currently the model and an animation of a ‘fly through’ the building are being produced by James Miles (Archaeovision). These will provide baseline data on the scope and state of the monument that will then be used to plan future works. A small scale excavation is planned for the next season, prior to building’s conservation. It is hoped that ultimately sufficient funds will be raised to turn the structure into a museum.

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