In the last few years three-dimensional digital modeling of Cultural Heritage has found various applications as tools for both the conservation and the study of ancient artifacts, buildings or archaeological settlements. Reducing the scale factor, such activity can be extended to the modeling of cities or portions of land, supplying useful information for city planning legislation or for verifying historical and archaeological hypotheses. When the model relates to a currently existing city, the data from which it is possible to build the model are often acquirable in the field or are available thanks to existing photogrammetric or topographic surveys, if recent enough to include the structures to be modeled. When, on the other hand, the model to be created represents a city in an historical phase different from the current one, the possible sources of data are more varied. Though the standard source is always the traditional paper forms of documentation, some cases may exist where useful data are “trapped” in a physical model. For example, this is the case for some places in Europe whose past appearance is described in great detail only in the French plan en relief built from the XVII to the XIX century and currently kept at the Hotel National des Invalides, in Paris. The study described in this paper dealt with a similar case, where the city to be represented is Rome in the Constantine period (4th century AD), and the plaster-of-Paris model is the famous “Plastico” created by Italo Gismondi from 1936 to 1974 and preserved in the Museum of Roman Civilization in Rome. Although the physical model is not contemporaneous with the period it describes, some archaeologists believe it contains some valid intuitions and deductions that are not far removed from the way Rome actually appeared in the period modeled. The scope of this project was therefore to extract from the physical model those data useful for reconstructing a digital model of ancient Rome, while editing out the reconstruction hypotheses that were considered unreliable or implausible.
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