Conference Paper

The virtual model of Grotta Romanelli: between research and divulgation

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Grotta Romanelli, a key site for prehistoric studies in Italy, is located on the Adriatic coast of southern Apulia near Castro (LE). Discovered in 1871, its deposits were the subject of extensive studies from the early twentieth century until the 1970s. Since then the field activities were suspended until 2015, when a new excavation campaign was started by a team coordinated by Sapienza University of Rome, in collaboration with IGAG-CNR and other research institutes with thepermission of the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the provinces of Brindisi and Lecce. At the same time as the research activities, the digitization and the creation of three- dimensional models of the excavated finds, of the cave deposits and of the engraved walls has been planned. This approach allows to have an accurate digital archive of the finds, a general overview of the excavation progress and a useful support for the study rock art. Photogrammetry was used for digitization. This technique is used in many scientific disciplines, recently employed in the cataloging and dissemination of paleontological and archaeological findings. In fact, it allows the production of high-resolution three-dimensional models starting from photographic images. The first models of the cave and the etched walls were made during the 2016 excavations, reproducing a three-dimensional "snapshot" of the deposits condition in the cave at the end of the campaign. This model was then updated in the following years with the progress of the field activities, creating a digital excavation diary, that can be easily used as an exceptionally valid tool for the musealization and accessibility of the cave.

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Italy’s prehistoric and protohistoric heritage is subjected to more threats than any other for reasons that go beyond its antiquity: if it is true that the record is often less imposing in its traces, this cannot justify the widespread general ignorance surrounding it. Such ignorance is mirrored and amplified by the lack of systematic recording of all kinds of evidence regarding this timeframe. Even though there is more than one platform available for such recording, its use is rarely considered accessible, and their features appear to be more oriented towards cataloguing rather than research or trying to capture the attention of a non-specialized audience. In this article, we pinpoint what seems to be missing and propose a model that can deal with the challenge.
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