Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Davide Tanasi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Denise Cali, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Scott Perry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Fredrick, Ph.D.


Archaeogaming, Archaeology, Roman, Serious Games, Sicily


With 10 million copies sold and 500 million dollars of revenue, the 11th installment of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018), showed how a videogame based on ancient Greek history and archaeology can make a splash in popular culture and that the distant past can become an extinguishable source of infinite engaging gaming narratives. As pedagogic and research counterparts to videogames of this kind, serious games and archaeogames focusing on Greek and Roman civilizations move from different premises, though aspiring to the same level of success. Serious games, created for a primary purpose other than sole entertainment, have found their way into classrooms and museums to educate students in a variety of disciplines mostly relying on digital storytelling strategies. Archaeogaming, on the other hand, encompasses, among other things, the creation of video games by archaeologists, who create 3D representations of the ancient material culture subject of their study, initially for the purpose of testing hypotheses in simulated environment and later to popularize archaeology and cultural heritage studies, finding a more ‘serious’ use in higher education.

This dissertation deals with defining best practices in archaeogaming design and production focusing on two practical examples of re-use of digital archaeological data for the generation of game assets for teaching and public outreach. Both case studies explore the context of Late Roman Sicily on which I conducted most of the experimental work in the preparatory years of this research. The first case study will be the narrative game prototype for the Villa del Casale (Piazza Armerina) in Enna, Sicily, entitled In Ersilia’s Footsteps, featuring Ersilia Caetani-Lovatelli (1840-1925), the first female archaeologist in Italian history. The game, developed in collaboration with the University of Arkansas’ Tesseract and directed by Dr. David Fredrick and Dr. Rhodora Vennarucci, narrative follows her in the exploration of the Late Roman Imperial countryside residence and UNESCO World Heritage site. The game revolves around the use of 3D digitized assets, created employing digital photogrammetry and 3D laser-scanning to capture the archaeological site, that significantly contributed to increase the realism of the game environment influencing the game creation process towards telling stories of real historic characters in real historic places. The second game, Building by the River, is an a building and experimental archaeogame, aimed at both contextualized elements from the archaeological site as well as the ability aid researchers in understanding the relationship between space and flow in the Late Roman villa of Caddeddi on the Tellaro river (Noto). More specifically, it seeks to explore how the Villa di Caddeddi may have looked and how the rooms functioned during its time as an operating rural villa in the late 4th Century CE. Giving players the ability to pick from a list of 3D digitized assets of actual archaeological materials found both on site and in similar Sicilian Roman villas, the game seeks to engage with playful building and experimentation as seen in other popular digital game titles, like Sims 4, Subnautica, and Minecraft. The on-going work at adding assets to use in the game as well as learn more about the nature and history of the Villa di Caddeddi is discussed in terms of the second-life of digital data, archaeological interpretation, and investigation of spatial use by ancient Romans in their elite rural homes. These assets, in both In Ersilia’s Footsteps and Building by the River, represent at the same time an example in best practices in reusing 3D data, since, once used to achieve research goals, they are repurposed and in combination with an original narrative and a user-friendly interface and mechanics they become the core of an engaging and exciting exploration game.

Ultimately, the experimental work, the new data gathered and the production of two original media research tools have proven to be a strategic decision to advance the digital scholarship agenda on Roman archaeology of Sicily and to trace a path for incorporating archaeogaming as a methodological approach into a research framework. The ability to re-use scientific data for the purpose of public outreach, education, and research allows for archaeologists to address pseudoscience and dangerous representations of the field. As such, the need to provide assets for games can be served through the second life of 3D digital archaeological materials.