"I think Buchner erred because he was too concentrated on Augustus' birthday and so only made one calculation of where the shadow would fall," Frischer said, "Before we made our simulation - which can instantaneously calculate a lighting solution for the shadow of the obelisk over a forty-year period for anyone virtually exploring the 80,000 sq. meter area - scholars only proposed a single date, time and observation point."
Buchner probably only did a single calculation for practical reasons, as traditional methods to find solar alignments were very time-consuming and subject to error, Frischer said, but in his new simulation, "millions of calculations can be made instantaneously."
Frischer said he calls this kind of work "simpiricism," or empiricism supported by computer simulations. He announced his findings earlier this month at the Vatican's Pontifical Archaeological Academy in Rome.
The project isn't Frischer's first foray in reconstructing pieces of ancient Rome bit by bit. Back in November, he unveiled the Digital Hadrian's Villa Project, which turns the opulent Roman compound into a video game-style virtual world to be explored using avatars.