Meet Ioklia, the 10-year-old daughter of a man called Nikandros, who lived in Amphipolis in the 4th century BC. As a “digital tour guide,” Ioklia will take you on a journey to her home city in the year 325 BC, when Alexander the Great was still on campaign in Asia, and when construction first started on the huge Kasta tomb.
Next to her is Androniki, an archaeologist from today, who will guide you through the ongoing excavations in the city, the multiple levels of its past occupation, and present the history of the famous burial monument.
Little Ioklia and Androniki, who borrows her name from the legendary Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikis and is played by the actress Mara Gavrilidou, are the protagonists in a digital reality application, created by Digital Innovations. Developed on behalf of the municipality of Amphipolis in the framework of the Borderless Culture project, the initiative has been funded by the cross-border cooperation program Interreg Greece – Bulgaria.
The idea to digitize two people, one from the ancient past and one from the present, is the brainchild of Nikos Pakhtas, a graduate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens.
“Through this digital application, my goal is to give people the opportunity to discover and learn about one of the most important ancient cities in Macedonia,” says Pakhtas, who modelled the image and voice of Ioklia on his own 10-year-old daughter, Ioanna.
Ioklia and Andonika take visitors on a journey to the ancient city of Amphipolis and the present-day archaeological site, presenting aspects of everyday life, the important role the city played in the wider region, and how archaeologists have since explored and pieced together the multiple layers of its long history.
“We have created transcripts to convey important scientific information about the site in a clear and concise way, under the close supervision of the head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Serres, Dimitrias Malamidou,” Pakhtas continues. “The result is really impressive.”
Ioklia’s narration begins with the formal greeting, “rejoice and heal,” a common salutation in the ancient past. “Ioklia’s costume is based on that of Myrtis, the girl from Periclean Athens, whose cranium was remodeled by a team of specialists led by Emmanuel Papagrigorakis, a professor in the School of Dentistry at the University of Athens,” says Pakhtas.
“As for Andonikos, her role is to guide visitors through the world of archaeological excavation. Using Amphipolis as an example, she explains the difficult and time-consuming process of excavating a site, and how archaeologists, in every layer, ‘read’ the information that is revealed, as if reading a book from the end to the beginning.”
A Journey through Time and Space
The old primary school building of Amphipolis, which was abandoned many years ago, has been completely renovated and transformed into a modern conference space, able to accommodate visitors wanting to embark on the multimedia journey to the city’s ancient past.
In the building, an immersed reality room has been created, where three walls and the floor serve as large projection screens. The projections occupy the entire field of vision, completely immersing the viewers in a totally different reality. Visitors experience panoramic views of the ancient city and its excavation, including the famous Kasta tomb.
Ioklia and Andoniki both appear as digital guides and interact with the audience by answering predefined questions that visitors can select from a touch screen menu. They also provide more detailed information on certain topics upon request. The application is available with English and Greek subtitles, and there is a version for deaf visitors.
“Ioklia takes visitors on a journey through time, while Androniki takes them on a journey through space,” Pakhtas explains. “Our purpose is not only to impress the visitors, but to inform them, and to present Amphipolis’ glorious past.”
“At the same time, our digital archaeologist tells the story of the rediscovery of ancient Amphipolis in the 1970s, when farmers in the area found the entrance to the [Kasta] tomb.”
The total duration of the digital tour, including the archaeological site and the Kasta tomb, is 40 minutes. As the excavations on the burial tumulus continue, the application will expand its content, giving the opportunity for those who cannot visit the site in person to experience the site through virtual reality.