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Sensations of Roman Lives

Recreating and experiencing a multi-sensory virtual reality built environment. Walking around Silchester Insula IX (a Roman town excavated by the University of Reading) dogs bark, flies buzz, people chatter, the blacksmith bangs his hammer as the smells of the cesspit, the animals and the herb garden waft around you.

Virtual reality spaces are becoming more common in everyday life, from gaming to architecture and design, alongside the recent arrival in our shops of a range of VR headsets. However despite this explosion of uses, all these experiences are dominated by one sense – vision. This Roman town VR experience includes smells.

In reality, we experience the world through all our senses. Sounds and smells play a vital role in how we perceive the environment around us, generating powerful emotions such as nostalgia, joy or disgust, yet their use in models of the built environment is largely ignored.

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Date: 2016
Media & size: Digital print, 1089mm x 841mm

2016 – ‘Sensations of Roman Life‘, AHRC dissemination at Fishbourne Roman Palace, Fishbourne, West Sussex, UK

(fc) – McLean, K. Sniffing Silchester Insula IX: Smells of Urban Roman Britain. In Bonneau, X and Fragneau, V (Ed) New Territories of the Olfactory Experience, Infolio

AHRC-funded project (grant ref: AH/NOO714X/1) between Dr Ian J Ewart, an anthropologist at the University of Reading’s School of the Built Environment; Dr Hannah Platts, a Roman historian and archaeologist from Royal Holloway, University of London, Dr. Tony Krus, an archaeologist at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, and Kate McLean, a designer and smellscape specialist at the School of Creative Arts and Industries at Canterbury Christ Church University.