February 8, 2024: Davide Tanasi

New 3D Digital Studies on the Roman Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina (Sicily)
Davide Tanasi, Department of History at the University of South Florida

FEBRUARY 8, 2024 

3D digitization for the study of archaeological heritage and the global dissemination of knowledge has proven to be extremely beneficial to the discipline. These digital approaches are increasingly used to drastically change archaeologists’ and art historians’ perspective on Roman villas, their decorative apparatus, and the artefacts found within them. The villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina (Sicily) is one of the most important examples of late Roman villas with its 2500 m2 of well-preserved mosaic floors and long use-life. Yet, the site is characterized by significant conservation issues, a relatively poor understanding of its later use-phases, a great deal of untapped legacy data, and relatively poor accessibility from a digital perspective. Thus, 3D visualizations hold great deal of potential to contribute to iconographic and architectural studies, monitoring changes in the physical state of the mosaics, and the recontextualization of legacy data, while contributing to the availability of globally accessible Roman material culture online. This presentation highlights methodological best practices in 3D digital imaging and visualizations developed around the emblematic case study of the Roman Villa del Casale. The project is part of the Archaeological Heritage in Late Antique and Byzantine Sicily (ArchLABS) initiative, an international and interdisciplinary research program focusing the reassessment of the entire site based on new excavations, innovative studies on its architecture, and analysis of its legacy data. A new season of digital explorations at the Villa were carried out in 2022 and 2023 as part of the ArchLABS campaigns, completed the 3D digitization of the villa through terrestrial LiDAR and digital photogrammetry and created digital replicas of legacy data from the 1950s excavations for the virtual recontextualization of artifacts in the rooms they were found. Preliminary findings offer promising evidence for advancing best practices in 3D digitization for the study of Roman villas.

Davide Tanasi is a professor in the Department of History at the University of South Florida, where he is also founder and director of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Institute for Digital Exploration and scientific director of the Mediterranean Diet Archaeology Project with the Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment. He is an archaeological scientist specialized in archaeology of ancient Sicily and Malta, with research areas of interest in pottery and glass technology, bio-archaeology, biomolecular archaeology, 3D digital imaging applied to archaeology and cultural heritage study. In that field, he has authored over 170 articles and several books and special issues of journals including the recent volume Archaeology of the Mediterranean during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (University Press of Florida 2023). He is currently P.I. of the HADES project (Heloros Advanced Digital Exploration and Surveying) at the Greek city of Heloros in Sicily and Co-P.I. of the ArchLABS project (Archaeological Heritage in Late Antique and Byzantine Sicily) for the remote sensing study and excavation of the Roman Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina, in Sicily, and Co-P.I. of Melite Civitas Romana project for the archaeological excavation of the Roman Domus at Rabat, in Malta.

This monthly Archaeology Lecture series is co-sponsored by the Alliance for Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society (CGCAS) and Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE).