It may be older than Stonehenge and even the Pyramids at Giza, but Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is bringing over 5,000 years of history at Skara Brae in Orkney into the 21st century with a new digital 3D model of the site.

The model, available to view on Sketchfab, allows virtual visitors an immersive digital experience of the Neolithic settlement, including the unique opportunity to gain virtual access to House 7, the best-preserved house at Skara Brae which is not normally accessible to the public.

The 3D model has been created through a process of laser scanning, using ultra-fast, high-resolution laser scanners which capture 3D spatial data in the form of a point cloud. To capture a photorealistic model, hundreds of overlapping images of the site are then combined with the 3D data, in a technique known as photogrammetry.

As well as offering a unique perspective on the iconic site, the digital model also allows users to explore how climate change and its impacts have shaped Skara Brae - from its discovery just over 170 years ago as the result of a severe winter storm, to the threat of coastal erosion from rising sea levels and increasingly frequent extreme weather events the site is experiencing today. Users can also see how HES and its predecessors have responded to those challenges, by exploring the sea wall which was constructed in the 1920s to protect the site from wave and storm damage and which has been extended and repaired numerous times over the decades.

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