View of Charlestown Jewish Cemetery in June, 2015

View of Charlestown Jewish Cemetery in June, 2015

The Jewish Cemetery in Charlestown, Nevis is a truly unique heritage site. Within its current boundaries are the remains of numerous Jewish graves dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. There are 19 marked burials, and previous archaeological work suggests that as many as 44 additional unmarked burials may be present at the site. In partnership with the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) and researchers from the University of Florida, DHI has constructed a virtual version of the site to help share this valuable heritage resource with a wider audience. Our project began during the summer of 2015 when we mapped the site using a mix of digital and traditional surveying methods. This included the use of a digital total station to crate an accurate 3D map of the site.

A mix of digital and traditional methods were used to document the cemetery’s features.

We also photographed all extant graves and used photogrammetry to create 3D version of each crypt. These high-detail models were then simpilified through a process known as “retopologizing” where low poly/lightweight versions of each model were produced. These low poly versions are less complex, therefore taking up less system resources when imported into a virtual version of the site. The graphic below shows the progression of one crypt from the original model produced using photogrammetry software on the left, and the final low poly version on the right. The photogrammetry was processed using AgiSoft’s PhotoScan software and the resulting models were edited in Blender.

Illustrating the workflow of taking a rough photogrammetry model and refining it with Blender for use in Unity 3D.

Illustrating the workflow of taking a rough photogrammetry model and refining it with Blender for use in Unity 3D.

Additional landscape elements were also created using Blender. This includes the cemetery’s ground surface, walls, and so forth. Roads and buildings were also constructed to anchor the cemetery in virtual space. It should be noted that due to time constraints, the surrounding landscape and features are stylized versions based on nearby structures, and not exact replicas of those around the site. This virtual world was constructed with Unity 3D.

A screenshot from the virtual version of the Jewish cemetery.

You can explore the initial virtual world prototype here. The final version exists in an offline form that can be downloaded below. This updated version allows users to interact with each of the graves, and a simple user interface (UI) provides additional information regarding each burial. This information includes dates, translated inscription text, and basic information regarding the objects which have been left on each grave (a common Jewish tradition).

A screenshot of the UI in the Jewish cemetery virtual world.

Download the desktop (final) versions below. At this time, support is only available for the PC/Windows version.

PC  –  MAC  –  LINUX

Interested in partnering on a similar project? Contact Edward Gonzalez-Tennant (ed[at]digital-heritage.net).