Glasgow Giza 3D

On this page are photos of the Glasgow Giza Plateau model that I put on display at the open day of the University of Glasgow Center for Open Studies yesterday. This is a 1:2000 scale model constructed from survey reports and mapping data back in 2006. In all it took around 1 year to build. It has proved very useful as a means to teach information regarding the unparalleled cultural landscape that is Giza. This model shows the plateau as it could have looked around 2,400 B.C. The project also allowed me to develop familiarity with the details of the landscape and the architecture, and I carried out an in-depth analysis of the dimensions of the plateau, in Egyptian cubits. The rule on the right hand side is a replica Egyptian official cubit of 52.35cm, just the size the Ancient Egyptians used to build the architecture on the plateau. This work also allowed me to investigate the evolution of the plateau and eventually served to develop an understanding of the architecture that I included in my 2008 publication Egyptian Tomb Architecture.

But this is not the only 1:2000 scale model of Giza in existence. When I was at the Semitic Museum of Harvard in the summer I took a photo of their own 1:2000 scale model of Giza which is covered by a large perspex dome. While the pyramids and causeways are almost identical, you can compare the different reconstructions regarding what the canal system would have looked like. These are now buried and leave little remnants, but Mark Lehner of Chicago has now found evidence of the harbor reaching right up beside Menkaure’s Valley temple (left of three) and to the foot of Khentekawes’s tomb complex, so both the Glasgow and Harvard models were correct in this respect.

Harvard’s model is joined by a less accurate model of the Giza plateau in the Bible Lands museum in Jerusalem:

and an architectural style model with a very wide and straight edged harbor area at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, (photo by Yair Haklai):

Originally the Glasgow Giza model had a glass pyramid case with electric LED illumination, but the glass was heavy and unwieldy as it was multi-layered and unbreakable.  The main issue with these type of models over the long term is that they take up a lot of museum space. Easy storage means that they must be dismantled and stored on end and so the case was not suitable for long term storage. 

Most modelling of architectural sites has now transferred over to 3D digital modelling, and again Harvard is at the forefront of this work. They have joined up with the French Dassault Systemes project which has been applying a military sized budget to Giza as a way to test and promote their software systems. The Dassault Systemes project with Harvard now has its own website:

One of the amazing aspects of the Dassault site is the ability to visualize the models dynamically in 3D wearing 3D glasses, but here again Glasgow got there first:) As part of the open day yesterday the students brought out some of the collection from the Hunterian Museum, including an early and surprisingly effective 3D viewing machine from the 19th century. Here is a picture of my nephew Gavin having a look at some photos, including a superb image of the beautifully carved interior of Roslyn Chapel, of Da Vinci Code fame.

As well as the monumental architecture I tried to recreate some of the domestic and industrial areas beside the Nile, where the workers lived. This provided scale for the larger monuments.

Workers' village. Domestic and administrative quarters to south east of plateau

Workers’ village. Domestic and administrative quarters to south east of plateau

All in all, Giza is an amazing place to study for an archaeologist, not only because of the ancient remains, but because it has often served as a proving ground for the latest archaeological techniques, from 3D photography to laser scanning surveys.

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3 thoughts on “Glasgow Giza 3D

  1. kmty

    This is a very Great work.

  2. Hi David,
    I don’t know if its just the angle of the photo, but I’m puzzled by the angles of the 3 causeways in your model. I have an aerial photo taken over Giza, which shows the Menkaure one heads due East from the pyramid, while the Khafre one is angled more to the South-east, & the Khufu causeway appears to go to the North-east (I imagine to avoid cutting through the cemetery to the east of the pyramid).
    I’ve always wondered about the event that must have caused the Khufu causeway to drop off the edge of the plateau… do you have any ideas on this ?

    • Hi Gill,
      A good general question, and there are no definite answers, but, I think the causeway was not just ceremonial, but was also used for construction activities during the build. Was it an access ramp for the granite blocks to be pulled up onto the plateau? These were truly enormous and would have required extensive pre-planning and preparation to complete their journey from Aswan. We know they slid these blocks on lubricated sleds with thousands of people pulling them along. This would have provided a controlled and stable surface.

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