Departmental Papers (CIS)

Date of this Version


Document Type

Working Paper


Kider, J., Fletcher, R., Yu, N., Holod, R., Chalmers, A., & Badler, N., Recreating Early Islamic Glass Lamp Lighting, International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST), 2009, doi: 10.2312/VAST


Early Islamic light sources are not simple, static, uniform points, and the fixtures themselves are often combinations of glass, water, fuel and flame. Various physically based renderers such as Radiance are widely used for modeling ancient architectural scenes; however they rarely capture the true ambiance of the environment due to subtle lighting effects. Specifically, these renderers often fail to correctly model complex caustics produced by glass fixtures, water level, and fuel sources. While the original fixtures of the 8th through 10th century Mosque of Córdoba in Spain have not survived, we have applied information gathered from earlier and contemporary sites and artifacts, including those from Byzantium, to assume that it was illuminated by either single jar lamps or supported by polycandela that cast unique downward caustic lighting patterns which helped individuals to navigate and to read. To re-synthesize such lighting, we gathered experimental archaeological data and investigated and validated how various water levels and glass fixture shapes, likely used during early Islamic times, changed the overall light patterns and downward caustics. In this paper, we propose a technique called Caustic Cones, a novel data-driven method to ‘shape’ the light emanating from the lamps to better recreate the downward lighting without resorting to computationally expensive photon mapping renderers. Additionally, we demonstrate on a rendering of the Mosque of Cordoba how our approach greatly benefits archaeologists and architectural historians by providing a more authentic visual simulation of early Islamic glass lamp lighting.



Date Posted: 18 July 2012