For the first time in 2,000 years, visitors to Jerusalem can ascend to the Second Temple as it stood before its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE, thanks to a virtual reconstruction opening to the public today.
The project, the Ethan and Miriam Davidson Exhibition and Virtual Reconstruction Center, which links ancient stones uncovered by archaeologists with state of the art hi-tech, is located in the cellars of an Umayyad palace complex near the Dung Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The project, constructed by the Antiquities Authority and the East Jerusalem Development Corporation, was built thanks to a contribution of some NIS 70 million (US $17.5 million), which includes an endowment to finance its continued activity, according to EJDC director Yoel Marinov.
As the visitors descend into the center, they experience the sharp contrast of ancient stones and modern building materials. A short video presentation takes them on a tour of the area leading up to the Temple, flashing back and forth between a guide in modern dress and the same guide dressed as a pilgrim in ancient times.
However, the jewel of the center is an interactive computer presentation in which visitors can "go up" to the Temple, graphically walking up the steps to the Hulda Gate and actually walking into the Temple Mount precinct, where they can "walk" in the royal stoa, the one area of the Temple from which there is archaeological evidence. The presentation, which was developed by the Authority together with computer scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles Department of Urban Simulation, makes it possible for visitors to go where they like, examine details, and view photographs of the archaeological finds on which the reconstruction is based.
Dr. Lisa Snyder of UCLA, who is visiting Jerusalem this week to put the final touches on the presentation, says this is the first time such a graphic reconstruction has been put into a museum setting and that she knows of no other presentation of this magnitude.
"I am not familiar with any other long-term project on this scale," Snyder says. On a smaller scale, individual visitors can go through the same program on nearby computers, and for those who want to visit the project from their homes, there is an Internet site: www.archpark.org.il
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