Mari: Visualisation of an excavation trench
About the project

Mari, modern Tell Hariri, located in the Middle Euphrates region in Syria is one of the most famous sites in the Near East, and dates from the 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE. The excavations at the most important trench V.1, which was applied as a deep sounding to answer chronological questions, was interrupted by the recent conflict in Syria.

The processing of the excavation data for this trench was, due to the fact that it was unreachable, very difficult. The French team around Prof. Butterlin of the University of Paris (Sorbonne) decided to commission us with the realisation of the excavation data in 3D. The goal of this project was to find a user-friendly system with which the archaeologists were able to work at a later point. Furthermore, renderings of the 3D model needed to be used to explain the complicated stratigraphy to a scientific and a non-scientific audience.

First, we transferred the excavation data into our 3D program with the help of plans, sections, photos, and the excavation team. From the beginning, it was considered, that different building phases should be distinguishable at a later point. The colouring of the architectural remains indicate not only different periods, but furthermore for each period different building phases.

To enable the team to work with the 3D model at a later point, we exported each structure from our program to the SketchUp file format. Google SketchUp is a free software, that is able to provide simple layer structures and also easy to learn. With the help of the program and the 3D model, the team was able to test individual features and to find still unanswered stratigraphical questions. A simple correction and update of the 3D model in 2013 could overcome these inconsistencies.

Abu-Azizeh, W.: Urban Network and Topography of Mari: Preliminary Results of the 2007-2010 Excavations in the Eastern City, Presentation held at the 8th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE) in Warsaw 2012.

Butterlin, P. 2008: Les nouvelles recherches archéologiques françaises à Mari (2005-2006), in: Studia Orontica II, 61-89.

Butterlin, P. 2009: Les enjeux des nouvelles recherches archéologiques françaises à Mari, in: Caramelo, F./Montero-Fenollos, J.L. (eds.), II e rencontre syro-franco-ibérique d’archéologie et d’histoire ancienne du Proche-Orient, la basse et moyenne vallée de l’Euphrate syrien: zone de frontière et d’échanges, Estudos Orientais X, Instituto Oriental, Lisbon, 53-79.

Butterlin, P. 2011: Cinq campagnes à Mari: nouvelles perspectives sur l’histoire de la métropole du Moyen-Euphrate: Comptes rendus de l’Académie de Janvier-Mars 2010.

Visualisation, Google SketchUp Model, flexible layer structure
Prof. Pascal Butterlin, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, University of Paris (Sorbonne), France
Completed in 2013
Detail of the main trench with applied sections and various small-finds.
Screenshot of Google SketchUp. The program is easy to use and you can differentiate between various layers.