Do archaeologists just exploit their host countries, or do they contribute something useful to them? The team of Heidelberg University was aware of the potential and need to develop the site museum which stood empty since its building in c. 1981. In 2002 funds from the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up and the General Organisation for Archaeology and Museums enabled a general refurbishing and a new exhibition. For some 250 years, the Himyarite tribal confederacy ruled most of Arabia from c. 270 to c. 525. This area comprises some 2.500.000 square kilometres - about as large as Western Europe without France. At Zafar, we had the luck to stumble onto key archaeological finds from a seminal part of the world history at a turning point in world history, the turn to Islam, which till now amounted to an informational vacuum. Unfortunately, since 2008 the Zafar Site Museum is accessible only in a limited way and has become a convenient place to store unwanted equipment from the main department office in Ibb. The idea of making the museum again accessible to visitors from the entire world gave birth to the idea of a virtual museum. We use a method called ISEE (“I see”) which allows the interactive navigation within a synthetic 3D model, reproducing the main features of a corresponding real environment. The basic idea of ISEE is to enable information retrieval by just looking around in a 3D environment, since moving and looking in the world are the main modalities we use to gather information. Relevant information is mentally ranked by means of its position/orientation in the 3D space. Based on simple navigation in 3D space, this technology allows an interaction and is suitable for different kinds of applications. Such are based on existing web routines and programs which do not require special training. The ranking algorithm which we developed matches the intuitive expectation of users, as was verified with formal usability tests. Both image and textual data are integrated in the ISEE system: Targeting a particular exhibit elicits a brief textual description. The Seminar for the Languages and Cultures of the Near East of Heidelberg University has committed itself to the Yemen since the late 1980s. It is hoped that the Zafar Virtual Museum will serve as a model in order to strengthen the touristic infrastructure in this Near Eastern land is easy, inexpensive and reliable. A further such virtual museum is planned for the Sultanate of Oman. An interactive visualisation makes information more accessible and improves user experience. (Abstract, Computer Graphics, 2010)

Virtual visit (version 2010)

Requires Unity Plugin, only Windows and OS X on Feb 11, 2016  •   • 

ZVM - 3DVisualization

Zafar/Yemen Virtual Museum

Posted by Paul Yule Forum Archaeologiae - Zeitschrift für klassische Archäologie 62 / III / 2012  • 

"Das durch ISEE kreierte Zafar Virtual Museum (ZVM), Jemen"