3D Model of the Pergamon Altar

The Masterplan Museumsinsel details the step-by-step modernisation of the Pergamonmuseum, which began in 2013. The hall containing the Pergamon Altar closed in the autumn of 2014 and is expected to remain closed until 2023. With funding from the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Staatliche Museen’s Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities) has partnered with Fraunhofer IGD, experts of visual computing, to create an elaborate 3D scan of this over-2,000-year-old masterpiece of Hellenistic art. This scan forms the basis for the 3D model of the Pergamon Altar.

From laser scan to 3D model

The scanning process took place during a period of two weeks before the closure of the hall under the leadership of Pedro Santos, head of the Department for the Digitalization of Cultural Heritage at the Fraunhofer IGD. During the first week, the researchers from the Fraunhofer Institut worked together with the Berlin museums to devise a plan of action. Over the course of the second week Santos and his colleagues spent their days creating a photogrammetric record of the 113-metre-long gigantomachy frieze. At night they surveyed the entire hall including all friezes and colonnades using 3D laser scanners. The digital survey was completed on the last day the hall was open, 29 September 2014.

Using a laser scanner successively set up in 51 scanning locations, the researchers collected a total of 176 million 3D points per measurement. This allows for a scan result with a resolution of one to two millimetres. The large frieze was additionally photographed line-by-line and column-by-column along a calculated matrix of points spaced every 63 cm on the horizontal axis and every 50 cm along the vertical axis, with overlapping images photographed at five angles (frontal, obliquely upward, downward, left, and right) in an automated process. For this the team developed an 8-m-long portable boom with a movable head for the positioning and orientation of the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. This process produced over 40,000 2D colour photographs with 24.2 megapixels per image, taken from a total of 8,065 individual survey positions. This image database allowed for the creation of a 3D model of the frieze with a resolution under half a millimetre.

Both scanning processes were then combined to create a 3D model made up of approximately 580 million triangles that encompasses around 90 gigabytes at the highest resolution. It was first presented to the public on 24 May 2016 and is now available for numerous uses in research, museum presentation, or reproduction. While the hall remains closed for renovation, visitors can now at least visit the Pergamon Altar online.