Photogrammetric Survey and 3DGIS Management of Mesh in the Integrated Investigation of Complex Sites: The Case Study of the Church of Santa Maria in Cesoni

Photogrammetric Survey and 3DGIS Management of Mesh in the Integrated Investigation of Complex Sites: The Case Study of the Church of Santa Maria in Cesoni

Ilaria Trizio (Institute for Construction Technologies, Italy), Francesca Savini (University of L'Aquila, Italy), Romolo Continenza (University of L'Aquila, Italy), Alessandro Giannangeli (Institute for Construction Technologies, Italy), Alessio Marchetti (Institute for Construction Technologies, Italy) and Fabio Redi (University of L'Aquila, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7555-9.ch003


This chapter illustrates the results of an experimentation carried out by a group of multidisciplinary researchers from the ITC-CNR of L'Aquila and of archaeologists and engineers from the University of L'Aquila. This research project is based on the analysis of architectural and archaeological artefacts (the state of conservation of the artefacts, seismic vulnerability, stratigraphic analysis, construction phases) using methods linked to innovative digital technologies such as digital photogrammetric restitution, based on structure from motion (SfM) algorithms and the generation of photorealistic textures. The innovative methodological approach specifically refers to the management of archaeological data concerning the state of conservation of structures, damages and to their seismic vulnerability in a 3D GIS environment, with particular attention to three-dimensional stratigraphic readings of the artefacts.
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The decision to analyze the church of Santa Maria in Cesoni in the archaeological complex of the Terme di Vespasiano, located close to the ancient Via Salaria, near the small town of Cittaducale (Figure 1), was dictated by the complexity of the site. Thanks to the continuity of its settlement, as shown by medieval structures above those of the Roman period, the site lends itself to more precise experiments for the management of heterogeneous and quantitatively consistent data.

The research has been influenced by the archaeological vocation of the site, therefore particular attention has been put in the archaeological analysis and three-dimensional stratigraphic analysis of the artefacts, integrating them with the published results of previous researches.

Furthermore, cognitive investigations were performed in recording seismic damage, by testing a new data sheet tool, and in understanding seismic vulnerability to accomplish protection needs of the cultural heritage.

Final purpose of the work presented here1 is to provide an accurate knowledge of the artefact, not only for professionals, by a conscious fruition that can be implemented thanks to modern technologies.

Figure 1.

Geographical and seismogenic sources map (Retrieved from, may 2018) of study case's territory



The archaeological area of the Terme di Vespasiano represents a settlement established to exploit the healing properties of the springs of Cotilia, well known since ancient times, and the object of much historical and archaeological research starting at the end of the 19th century and continued in modern times by the Archaeological Superintendence of Lazio as from 1969. For the classical settlement, originally interpreted as thermal baths with annexed residential areas (Reggiani, 1979, 1992), even if today they are dry due to the lowering of the water table in the area (Bersani & Moretti, 2004), there is also the proposal of a religious function given that some structures refer to the federal sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Vacuna associated with water and very important for Sabine culture (Reggiani, 1992; Alvino & Leggio, 1997; Sereni, 2003; Alvino, 2014, 2015). This is a hypothesis supported also by the findings of inscriptions dedicated to the goddess (Coarelli, De Santis, & Gasparini, 2009, pp. 29-37). The entire complex shows various settlement phases which range from the religious and thermal baths structures of the Roman period, with a large natatio located at the center of the second terrace (Figure 2), to the Early Medieval transformation and change of use when a part was used for burials (De Palma, 1985; Menotti & Rubini, 1988; Rubini & Fulcheri, 1988; Santini, 2009), another part given over to a productive zone with a mill and on the structures to the south-west of the pool the religious building, object of this experimentation, was erected.

Figure 2.

Photos of the archaeological complex of the Terme di Vespasiano


Digital technology has enriched methodology in collecting, analyzing and interpreting archaeological data, and integration of several tools enables in solving problems related to the knowledge and the fruition of an archaeological complex.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Seismic Vulnerability: Predisposition of a building to be damaged and collapsed which is calculated on the basis of various factors such as type, quality of materials, construction methods, maintenance, and the relationship with the anti-seismic devices present in the building itself.

USM: The acronym indicates the stratigraphic units of the wall which they are the result of actions, construction processes (positive units) and removal (negative units) that characterize a historic building. They contain several information, both material and cultural, which allow us to understand the technological knowledge, the economic and ideological culture of who built the artifact. The direct relationships, of anteriority and posteriority between the USM, allow to reconstruct the history of the building.

Stratigraphic Analysis: Method that allows to identify the units that constitute the context (architectural complexes, constituent elements, fronts, etc.) and the USM with the aim of reconstructing a physical sequence based on relationships of anteriority, posteriority and contemporaneity. This allows to obtain a relative chronology that can be transformed into “absolute” thanks to the dating of the single USM by chronological indicators such as the classification of masonry techniques or the chronological typology of architectural openings.

H-BIM: Is the acronym that indicates the application of building information modeling to the historical built heritage. It represents an innovative and multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of cultural heritage that, through digital 3D and semantic models and data management, allows to enrich the knowledge of the heritage.

Archaeology of the Architecture: Research field that applies the stratigraphic method, typical of archaeology, to the historical buildings in order to reconstruct their history. The discipline is directly involved in the problems of conservation and restoration of the architectural heritage, as the investigations underline the complexity and the abundance of the information of the architectural artifact and, consequently, the responsibility of those who intervene to preserve or transform it.

Digital Photogrammetry: Methodology that allows to elaborate a three-dimensional model starting from sets of digital photographs that, unlike other systems based on active sensors, has lower costs. Today it has reached high levels of accuracy thanks to the development of several software based on structure from motion (SfM) algorithms and Stereo Matching algorithms elaborated in the computer vision field.

Semantic Digital Model: A cognitive system that, through a specific lexicon, uses the 3D digital representation to connect, in a topologically way, the data (dimensional, geometric, formal, constructive, historical, conservative, etc.) that characterize the cultural heritage to the digital model.

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