Imaginative visualization of reception hall

Munyas (aristocratic estates; villas) were a key feature of the landscape of the early medieval cities of Islamic Iberia (Arabic al-Andalus). Those that surrounded Córdoba, the capital of al-Andalus, were celebrated in the literature of the period. The Arabic court chronicles describe villas as the primary settings for court feasts, musical and poetic performances, diplomatic receptions, and leisure activities such as hunting.

Despite the importance of these villas in the medieval period, they have not survived as standing monuments. As works of architecture and landscape, the munyas of Córdoba are known through fragmentary archaeological remains. You can watch a 5-minute introduction to munyas here.

The digital munya project was a 2010-12 multidisciplinary effort to visualize this important medieval building type, its landscape setting, and its interior decoration. We developed a navigable 3D model and game, using the Unity gaming platform to provide scholars and students with a new tool for creative visualization and analysis.

Our visualization combined elements from two archaeological sites near present-day Córdoba: al-Rummaniyya and the palace city of Madinat al-Zahra’. Our aim was not to provide accurate archaeological reconstructions of either site, but to creatively suggest visual possibilities of vanished munya spaces.