UCLA Professors Use Virtual Reality to Explore Ancient Egypt





To Willeke Wenderish, an associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles, exploring the ruins of an ancient temple within an air-conditioned computer classroom can be even more useful than visiting the site in person.

Ms. Wenderish recently co-produced a virtual-reality project called “Digital Karnak,” which allows students (and visitors to the project’s Web site) to learn how the Egyptian religious center has evolved over two millennia. Milling about the ruins or studying a two-dimensional map of the Karnak site can be disorienting, she said. Virtual modeling, on the other hand, allows scholars to observe what in the structure changed and when—using a more sophisticated tool than the mind’s eye.

“It helps them think through all the things that you wouldn’t have thought through if you were looking at a map,” she said—“which areas were roofed, not roofed, how high would the walls have been, how large would a doorway have been.” It also allows scholars to more vividly illustrate contrasting theories of how the site evolved over time, she said.

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