RESEARCHERS are hoping that a computer program will map all of Scotland and give a virtual impression of the landscape as far back as 15,000 years ago.
The team, from the University of Stirling, started by modelling the village of Kilmartin in Argyll as it may have looked 15,000 and 4,500 years ago. The pictures of 15,000 years ago depict the area as under sheets of ice and a glacier where Loch Awe is now. The pictures of 4,500 years ago depict the area, now lush agricultural land, as dense woodland.
The technology was developed in six months by researchers at the universityís School of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
The university has set up a Virtual Landscape Centre to help bring history to life. The centreís director, Sandy Winterbottom, said it was unnerving standing in a virtual-reality reconstruction of thousands of years ago of an area she knew well.
She said: "We have reconstructed the Kilmartin landscape for two periods - 15,000 years ago and 4,500 years ago.
"The first period was in an ice age and the whole area was covered in sheets of ice. Very little grew, just moss and lichens. The landscapes are desolate and cold," she said.
"The later landscape shows a densely wooded, leafy and green valley. It comes from the time of many of the exciting finds archaeologists have made in the area, like the Temple Wood Stone Circle."
Dr Winterbottom said the technology could help interest children in science. "This is a new way you can teach people. Museums have to catch up with the technology they are using. Children are used to computers and IT, and exhibits in glass cases donít grab them anymore."