Virtualizing the Temple of Bayon

Chapter
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)

Abstract

The Bayon temple—located at the centre of Angkor Thom and built by king Jayavarman VII (1181–c.1220)—has been virtualized several times since the ‘rediscovery’ of the Angkor site by Europeans in the middle of the nineteenth century CE. Some of this ‘virtualization’ has involved artistic interpretations of the Bayon, while others were actual archaeological reconstructions based on knowledge of the monument at that time. The layout of the Bayon is its first virtualization, and its evolution from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s, shows the complexity and the difficulty met by the explorers and architects who have tried to depict the temple. This paper discusses the recent virtualization of this complex Khmer temple as a three-dimensional model based on a specific context of the building’s archaeological history. Like classical archaeological reconstruction drawings, the main purpose of this kind of virtualization of ancient buildings using 3D modelling is the depiction of a monument in its original shape before deterioration. In the specific case of the Bayon, this purpose poses several challenges linked with the site’s complex architectural history. It is not just one archaeological reconstruction but rather a series of reconstructions that are needed in order to depict the different chronological incarnations of this temple.

This paper summarily raises two points about the generalization of the 3D model for the archaeology of ancient buildings: Because an archaeological reconstruction is not definitive but represents our current understanding of the monument based on a synthesis of architectural and archaeological studies, the question of rendering 3D archaeological reconstructions for the public has to be reassessed. On the other hand, the utilization of the CAD system to elaborate the 3D models of these archaeological reconstructions can be a genuine research tool used to validate hypotheses and conduct new investigations, not just produce images for communication.

Keywords

3D modelling Cultural heritage Bayon Banteay Chhmar Angkor 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center in Architecture and Engineering, National Architecture School of Nancy, Nancy and CASE (Centre Asie du Sud-Est), CNRS/EHESSParisFrance

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