Human settlement over thousands of years has left traces in the ground – traces that can be made visible on
the computer screen with the aid of state-of-the-art technology. In Carnuntum an international team of
archaeologists, geophysicists and computer experts from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological
Prospection und Virtual Archaeology (LBI-ArchPro) is exploring Roman remains hidden in the ground using
the latest technological developments. Last year this team made several sensational discoveries. In Norway
and Sweden graves and settlements from Viking times were discovered. Much attention was aroused by the
LBI-ArchPro discovery in Stonehenge. Using motorized magnetic field sensors and 900 metres from the
world-famous stone circle, a similar monument made of wood was made visible after more than four
thousand years. Newly developed ground penetrating radar devices, which examine the ground threedimensionally, have led to a sensational discovery in Roman Carnuntum and throw new light on the Roman
gladiators and their lives and deaths.
The devices (developed by LBI-ArchPro) are highly
efficient at finding archaeological remains and
provide images of the subsurface with unparalleled
detail to a depth of several metres. In Carnuntum,
one of the largest Roman landscapes that has been
preserved to the present day, a new motorized multichannel ground penetrating radar device was used in
close cooperation with the Province of Lower Austria
and the Central Institute for Meteorology and
Geodynamics, in order to examine closely areas that
had been localized by aerial photography.
This area is situated to the west of the amphitheatre
which was built in the first half of the 2nd century AD outside the civilian city of Carnuntum. The archaeologists
were thrilled when the new sensors showed an extensive and self-contained building complex: the gladiator
school in Carnuntum (Latin ludus).
The Amphitheatre, which was excavated from 1923 to 1930, had a capacity of up to 13000 spectators, and
according to contemporary inscriptions was the fourth largest amphitheatre in the entire Roman Empire and
scene of numerous gladiator games. Despite the excavations, the area where the gladiator school has now
been discovered received little attention. The aerial photographs show buildings with shops and taverns along
the east side of the Roman road, which led out of the ancient city to the arena. There are no appropriate
buildings on the opposite side of the road. Using penetrating ground radar the LBI-ArchPro team decided to
investigate the shadowy outlines in the aerial photos to the west of the amphitheatre. After only a few hours,
the gladiator school (which is still preserved today in the ground) was discovered and made visible once again
on the computer screen.
Carnuntum’s gladiator school is a self-contained building complex covering 2800 square metres, in a plot of
land of 11000 square metres surrounded by a wall. The buildings are laid out around a large inner courtyard,
where ground penetrating radar disclosed a circular training arena with a diameter of 19 metres with wooden
spectator stands. Detailed radar images show the foundations of a 100 sq. metre heated training hall, an
extensive bathing complex, 300 sq. metres which could have been an administration wing and the living
quarters of the gladiator school’s owner, and the gladiators’ cell-like living quarters (on average 5 sq. metres).
The necessary infrastructure such as water lines, underfloor heating systems and drains as well as paths to the
amphitheatre, gateways, or the foundations of memorials can be clearly seen in the high resolution radar data.
The archaeologists also believe that a gladiator burial field (with individual large grave monuments, stone
sarcophagi and different simpler graves) is to be found just behind the gladiator school. At the moment the
explicitness of the building structures in Carnuntum can only be compared with the large gladiator school, the
ludus magnus to the east behind the Colosseum (amphitheatrum flavium) in Rome. However, this sensational
archaeological structure was discovered with the most modern and non-destructive methods and is at the
moment unique throughout the world in its completeness and dimensions, and has now been reconstructed as
a virtual model. The result can be viewed with Wikitude World Browser software, a mobile augmented reality
application, which embeds the virtual contents of a specific geographical location into the real camera image in
the mobile phone or iPad. Thus the gladiator school can be made visible once more directly on site.
Further information:
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology ( is a
research institute of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft ( and was founded in 2010. The
Institute carries out its research activities together with international partner organisations and aims to create
a network of scientists to implement interdisciplinary archaeological research programmes for the
development of large-scale, efficient and non-destructive methods for the discovery, documentation,
visualisation and interpretation of Europe’s archaeological heritage. The lead partners of the Institute, which is
based in Vienna, are the University of Vienna (A), the Vienna University of Technology (A), the Austrian Central
Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (A), the Province of Lower Austria (A), Airborne Technologies (A),
the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz (D), RAÄ – the Swedish National Heritage Board (S), the IBM
VISTA Laboratory of the University of Birmingham (UK), und NIKU – the Norwegian Institute for Cultural
Heritage Research (N).
The project in Carnuntum brought cooperation between the partners specializing in virtual and augmented
reality: 7reasons and Wikitude GmbH.
Contact: Prof. Wolfgang Neubauer, LBI ArchPro, email:, phone +43 664 8174991
Methods of archaeological remote sensing can provide important information regarding settlement,
environmental and landscape archaeology, and contribute greatly to the discovery and identification of
archaeological sites. New developments in this sector are based on photogrammetry, airborne hyper-spectral
scanning and airborne laser scanning.
Aerial archaeology is a very cost-effective method for site discovery with the potential to provide detailed maps
of archaeological structures. Slight topographic variations are visible as shadow-marks, soil-marks due to
varying chemical or physical properties affecting soil colour on the surface, and growth characteristics due to
local changes in the soil moisture can show archaeologically important traces in the vegetation.
The most effective methods of geophysical archaeological prospection are magnetometry and ground
penetrating radar. Magnetic archaeological prospection is based on the one hand on the change in magnetic
characteristics of the upper soil resulting from fire in the past, and the filling in of pits, post holes and ditches
with magnetically enriched material. Furthermore, fire sites, iron smelting sites and both brick and limestone
walls can – in the right circumstances – be mapped. Ground penetrating radar is similar in principle to a depth
sounder used on land: a transmitter antenna sends a short electromagnetic signal into the ground, which is
reflected by stratification layers or objects, such as buried stones, and is registered by a receiver antenna.
Ground radar measurements result in the registration of digital three-dimensional data blocks, which when cut
into horizontal slices show the changes to the ground and preserved archaeological structures at the relevant
depth. The radar antenna can penetrate to a depth of about two metres, depending on the soil moisture and
clay content.
The latest developments allow the use of motorized measuring devices and thus a large-scale exploration of
the landscape. A quad-bike pulling magnetometers with up to 10 sensors can cover an area of more than 20
hectares per day, whereas the latest ground penetrating radar, driven by a tractor, can examine an area of
about four hectares in high resolution with an accuracy of eight centimetres.
Most essential in both cases is the exact positioning of the data with help of the latest GPS technology: the
position of the measuring vehicles is determined five times per second with an accuracy of two centimetres.
The newly developed methods require special software for data processing and visualization.
A most important point is the archaeological interpretation of the collected data which is carried out using the
computer within geographical information systems. Within a very short time images of the structures hidden
in the ground can be created and analysed with regard to the surroundings and known archaeological sites.
Efficient, large-scale archaeological prospection allows new links to be made regarding whole settlement
landscapes. Traces of buildings, pits, ditches, post holes, transport and communication routes, graves and
fortifications tell us about the historical development of whole landscapes. These completely non-destructive
methods enable the mapping of threatened archaeological sites and thus help to protect them.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology ( is a
research institute of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft ( and was founded in 2010. The
Institute, together with several international partner organisations, implements interdisciplinary research
programmes for the development of large scale, non-destructive technologies for the discovery,
documentation, visualisation and interpretation of Europe’s archaeological heritage. The lead partners of the
Institute (which is based in Vienna) are the University of Vienna, the Vienna University of Technology, the
Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), the Province of Lower Austria, Airborne
Technologies, Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz (RGZM), the Swedish National Heritage Board
(Riksantikvarieämbetet - UV Teknik), the University of Birmingham with IBM VISTA, and the Norwegian Institute
for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). The project in Carnuntum brought cooperation with partners specialising
in virtual and augmented reality: 7reasons, Riegl LMS GmbH and Wikitude GmbH.
LBI-ArchPro’s scientific programme is concerned with archaeological remote sensing, archaeological
geophysical prospection and archaeological interpretation, spatial analysis of these data and new methods of
virtual archaeology. The sector archaeological remote sensing covers aerial archaeology and photogrammetry,
airborne laser scanning and airborne hyper-spectral scanning. Archaeological geophysical prospection covers
the development and utilisation of motorised, multi-channel magnetometer and ground penetrating radar
systems as well as the matching of automatic navigation and positioning systems backed by satellite. The
spatial and temporal analysis and visualisation of the archaeological information obtained in the large and
complex datasets from the first two programme lines require the development of new archaeological
interpretation tools based on geographical information systems. The comprehensive scientific aim is the
creation of new possibilities to obtain archaeologically relevant information about hidden and threatened
monuments in the ground which are to be found in large-scale archaeological landscapes.
In order to test and refine the technical and methodological developments, a number of selected case studies
are planned in the countries of the European partner organisations. These landscape archaeological case
studies are led by the national partners. In England under the auspices of the "Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes
Project", headed by the British partner organisation VISTA at the University of Birmingham, the whole
landscape visible from Stonehenge is to be archaeologically surveyed with high resolution geophysical
prospection. The first field study in summer 2010 resulted in the discovery of a henge monument unknown up
to that point which made world-wide headlines. This early success clearly demonstrates the scientific potential
of the chosen approach. Further case studies include the mapping of the Iron Age settlement Uppåkra, and the
UNESCO World Heritage Site and Viking trading centre Birka-Hovgården in Sweden. An initial operation in the
Vestfold case study together with Norwegian partner NIKU and archaeologists from the Vestfold region
resulted in excellent archaeological results and finds. Two further case studies are planned in Germany along
the middle Rhine and near Leipzig. In Austria the large-scale exploration of several archaeological landscapes is
planned. All case studies greatly benefit from close cooperation of national experts with scientists in
international partner organisations and the research group of the Institute. Supporting young scientists
involved with archaeological prospection is a stated aim of the research project, as well as publication of the
results and new findings both in specialist publications and in the general press.
Further information:
Wikitude GmbH ( was founded in 2009 and supported the LBI ArchPro in visualising the
gladiator school. The result can be viewed with an iPad using Wikitude World Browser augmented reality
The Wikitude World Browser is a mobile application, which embeds the
contents of a specific geographical location into the real camera image of the
mobile phone or iPad. This technology is known as “augmented reality”,
whereby the “reality” as seen via the camera image is enhanced by computer
generated contents. Augmented reality is particularly suitable for
archaeology: with augmented reality, 3D models of historical buildings, such
as the gladiator school, can be visualised directly on site.
Visitors to the Archaeological Park Carnuntum are thereby offered completely
new possibilities of experiencing history with this technology. The iPad starts
one on a journey back in time where the visitor can walk through the
gladiator school directly on site.
Augmented reality in connection with a specific geographical location: the position of the objects on the screen
of the mobile device is calculated via the position of the user (GPS), the direction in which the user is actually
looking (compass) and the movement sensors. In contrast, a marker (e.g. QR code) is used for tracking with the
marker-based augmented reality. Central element of the Wikitude World Browser is the location. Whereas
with normal internet the location has only a minor role, the browsing of contents in Wikitude World Browser is
optimised for mobile use in a specific geographical location. An ordinary map shows an abstract view from
above, but augmented reality offers a direct “extended” view of reality with additional contents. Wikitude
World Browser is available for use with iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Symbian.
The Team of 7reasons has worked for more than 15 years on the creation of film and multimedia productions,
and consists of specialists in 3D-reconstruction and animation as well as application programming for
interactive use.
In the last few years the company has specialised in the depiction and explanation of the results of scientific
research in exhibitions, documentations as well as print media and interactive media. The latest technologies
for 3D animation as well as innovative hardware products are used.
7reasons operates in Lower Austria, Salzburg, Vienna and Germany for well-known companies and institutions
in Europe, and participates in European research projects with its range of services.
Further information: Günther Weinlinger / / / T +43 2278 28204