In September 2014, the Pergamon Altar in Berlin was scanned in 3D by the Competence Center Cultural Heritage Digitization at Fraunhofer IGD. The scanning project was implemented in cooperation with the Antiquities Collection of the Berlin State Museums (Antikensammlung der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) and was supported by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, BKM).
The result is an elaborated 3D model of the more than 2000-year-old Hellenistic altar. Now the masterpiece of Ancient Greece is at least accessible online, while the exhibition hall will be closed until 2019 due to renovation works. Since 2013, the Pergamonmuseum is being modernized section by section as part of the Master plan Museumsinsel (Masterplan Museumsinsel). The room with the Pergamon Altar has been closed for works since November 2014.
The Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) commissioned the scanning project at short notice. Nevertheless, the entire altar could be scanned in 3D within the last two weeks before closure. Planning the task took up the first, implementing the scanning process the second week. All on-site works could be completed on the last day of opening, September 29, 2014.
For the visual acquisition of the cultural artifact, Pedro Santos and his team used a laser scanner, which was placed in 51 different positions and which recorded a total of 176 million 3D points per measurement. The 113m long Gigantomachy frieze was photographed automatically with a reflex camera. In order to capture the frieze in its height, this camera was mounted onto an 8m long, mobile rig with a flexible tilt head; a solution that originates from film technology. Subsequently, the photogrammetric and the photo-optic pictures were combined to form the 3D model. This model consists of 83 million triangles from the laser scan and 500 million triangles from the frieze scan and therefore comprises a total of about 580 million triangles. A 3D visualization of such high resolution makes a true-to-original and detailed representation of the altar possible.
The Pergamon Altar’s 3D model has been available to the public since May 24, 2016. In an online viewer, the entire architectural ensemble can be examined in detail. This virtual representation also offers information on the iconographic program. The 3D model thereby creates access to the currently inaccessible original. Furthermore, the model is now available for numerous applications in research, museum presentation, or reproduction. A hybrid exhibition, which displays the 3D model during the modernization phase, is already being planned. Another possibility to continue work in this direction would be with regard to the fragments of the altar, which are currently stored at the depot of the Antiquities Collection. Should these artifacts be scanned as well, the models could help to virtually piece the altar back together like a puzzle. From a conservation point of view, 3D visualization can make a contribution that exceeds the purely documentary purpose.