Rebuilt Romans Blog

(Binchester and beyond)

Virtual Binchester Part of Beta Web Testing

* cross posted at *

Normally, the virtual world platform Second Life (SL) is accessed by a stand-alone program. Linden Lab, the company that runs SL, is currently beta testing a java plug-in that will allow visitors to access the world with just a web browser. ROMA, the ancient Roman land that houses a full scale reproduction of the Binchester fort, is one of only 30 places chosen for this beta testing.

Over the next few weeks, beta testers will be able to access ROMA and visit all of its attractions, including the virtual Binchester reconstruction, with only a web browser running the latest version of Java. The program is code named “Skylight”. ROMA and the Binchester build are charter locations for this exciting step forward, which if successful, will definitely give people unable or unwilling to download a program still visit the reconstruction.

This evening, I accessed the Binchester reconstruction using just a Firefox browser. It worked seamlessly. I also wandered over to the other buildings and attractions in ROMA. More details as this program develops.

Radio broadcast on "The Perplexing Task of Archiving Virtual Worlds" from Maryland Public Radio.

"Library archives are full of old newspapers on microfilm, early popular music on 78 r.p.m. discs, and old radio broadcasts on reel to reel tape. But what if someone 50 years from now wants to study the virtual world Second Life? How in the world do you archive a virtual world? Nathan talks to two people who are trying. Kari Kraus, assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, and Rachel Donahue, one of Kari’s doctoral students, are part of the Preserving Virtual Worlds project."

Virtual Binchester Day

* cross posted at *

On July25 2010, six Binchester excavation students sat in a room in Durham University and logged into Second Life® (SL), the virtual world. In virtual form they attended a “Binchester Day” inside a virtual reconstruction of the very fort they were currently excavating.

The reconstruction is part of major initiative between the Binchester Project and ROMA, a community of Roman enthusiasts inside Second Life. ROMA is an ancient Roman themed land within the online world of SL where thousands of people from around the world log in to visit a virtual reconstruction of an ancient Roman city and its landscape. They do many things there, including socialize, shop, play games, attend events, and learn about the ancient world.

The Binchester students in virtual form met with ROMA Citizens for a question and answer session about the season that lasted over an hour. The Citizens asked questions about what it was like excavating on an archaeological project, and the students explained what had been found so far on the site. The talk was held in the reconstructed Principia (Headquarters) building in the fort. Afterward, students and Citizens attended a social event.

The virtual reconstruction of the fort gives the Binchester Project an online outreach program that will assist in publicizing the project and disseminating its findings and research to an international audience. The computer recreation of the fort and civilian settlement (vicus) gives visitors an idea of the look and character of the site from anywhere in the world. It is now possible to walk an avatar around a reconstructed Roman fort, and interactive displays, activities, and attractions bring the story of Binchester and the details of what the excavators are finding to visitors.

More mixed-media events are planned in this space for the coming months.

To learn how to access Second Life, look here:

To visit the Binchester reconstruction once inside Second Life, look here:

Binchester in Virtual Worlds

Over the last year, I've been working with avatar Torin Golding inside the online virtual world of Second Life. Torin owns and manages a large recreation community based on the ancient Roman world. We've joined with him in adding two sims (virtual islands) to his large estate where Torin will build the project a full-scale reproduction of the Binchester fort and vicus. It will contain a wide range of interactive displays and exhibits helping visitors to learn about the site and the history of Roman Britain.

We've been putting this virtual reconstruction program together for many months and are happy it is finally starting! Stay tuned for more updates on the program and check out Torin's community web blog at

The Binchester Virtual Worlds Project

Otherwise known as what I will be working on this summer