Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (MA)

Degree Level



Graduate School


Rhodora Vennarucci

Committee Member

David Fredrick

Second Committee Member

Luis Restrepo


Classical Studies, Game Design, Roman Archaeology


In this thesis, I argue that the combination of existing archaeological theory with game design theory offers an innovative avenue for creating serious 3D applications of archaeological sites in virtual reality that can be productively used for pedagogical, research, and outreach solutions. In this thesis, I engage with the archaeological theories of phenomenology and sensory studies, briefly touching on structure and agency as well as discussion of some current digital applications in use in the field. For this project, I am interested in game design theory as it relates to education and I view Virtual Reality as an important tool for enhancing the effect of interactive education since it encourages embodiment and presence in virtual landscapes, a key component of phenomenological studies. To test my arguments, I have designed a VR application for the Virtual Roman Retail Project (VRR), which aims to create plausible interactive scenarios within an ancient Roman shop to explore commercial behavior in the ancient world.

The result is a digital application, downloadable for free on the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 headsets, that allows the player to enter a reconstructed shop scene in Pompeii. The shop’s design, based on careful research of the historical, visual, and material data, was realized through a combination of photogrammetry and 3D modeling procedures in, for instance, Metashape, Blender, and Photoshop. While embodied within the shop space, the player can interact with objects in the scene, recreating the act of browsing for goods in a shop, opening up new Questions and creating new data for this aspect of Roman social and economic history. I conclude with a discussion of the future role of VRR and its planned expansion to include shops in other Roman towns as well as my methodology’s applicability beyond the shop to other archaeological sites and its larger role in digital humanities applications.