Virtual visit of ancient churches
3D models of Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila Qǝddus Mikaʾel and ʾAraʿro Täklä Haymanot
Combined with the study of the ecclesiastic libraries and archaeological surveys, the digitizing of the historical structures and 3D modelling in the framework of the Ethio-SPaRe project represent another step in search for comprehensive and affordable ways of recording the properties of historical sites, in the context of the Ethiopian highlands. The models visualize the authentic church structures and the murals, and can be used for both study and historical heritage management purposes.
The photogrammetric data were taken by means of the "Structure from Motion" (SFM) technique and processed with the software Agisoft Photoscan. The method proved effective and practical in the conditions of Ethiopia; the final products were presented by M. Barbarino at the conference Manuscripts and texts, languages and contexts: the transmission of knowledge in the Horn of Africa in Hamburg on 17 July 2014.
Two 3D models of churches Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila Qǝddus Mikaʾel (number III.23 on the map) and ʾAraʿro Täklä Haymanot (number I.14 on the map) have been produced for the Ethio-SPaRe project by Marco Barbarino (Naples). The 3D models complement the preliminary descriptions of the churches in the mission reports (see Report 2, 2010, for ʾAraʿro Täklä Haymanot and Report 5, 2012, for Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila) and as appeared in D. Nosnitsin, Churches and Monasteries of Tegray. A Survey of Manuscript Collections, Supplement to Aethiopica 1, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013, pp. 209-219 (Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila) and 66-67 (ʾAraʿro Täklä Haymanot). Both sites definitely need further study and some protection measures.
Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila is a semi-hypogean church in täbiya ʿAddi Qänäy, wäräda Ganta ʾAfäšum (Eastern Tǝgray Zone). The 3D textured model was produced in 2013 by Marco Barbarino (Naples) after he visited the site with the on 04-05 December 2012. On the same occasion, a brief archaeological survey of the site, which appears to be at least Post Aksumite/ early medieval, was conducted (see the report of the Sixth mission and now L. Sernicola, "New archaeological evidence in the area of 'Addigrat (Eastern Tegray)", Rassegna di studi etiopici nuova seria 4, 2012, pp. 61-67). Due to the complexity of the site and the presence of a number of scattered structures, the 3D representation has been divided into two parts: one for the old church, and another one for the gorge and compound. Luckily, the data were taken just before the situation started changing drastically at Mǝʾǝsar Gwǝḥila. In late 2012 the community was laying a foundation for a new massive church in front of the gorge entrance, which will change the historical appearance of the site, and the construction of an industrial installation has been underway in the vicinity of the site.
The 3D model of the old church of ʾAraʿro Täklä Haymanot (täbiya Ḥayyälom, wäräda Gulo Mäḵäda, East Tǝgray) was produced by Marco Barbarino after his visit to the site on 25-26 January 2014. Being a fine piece of the Ethiopian ecclesiastic architecture, the church and its murals possibly date to the seventeenth century. The church is a lucky survivor in the area where dozens of old churches vanished in the last decades, replaced with new structures. For a detailed analysis of the library of ʾAraʿro see D. Nosnitsin in: A. Bausi - A. Gori - D. Nosnitsin, Manuscripts and texts, languages and contexts: the transmission of knowledge in the Horn of Africa, Supplement to Aethiopica, 4, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015.