What is the Ice Age?

The ice age is a period of cold climate which allows ice sheets to form from the collection of snow. Several ice ages have occurred in Earth’s history with the most recent occurring from 115,000 years BP to 11,700 years BP, known as the Last Glacial Cycle or Last Glacial Period [1]. The period at which ice volume was at its maximum, and so the lowest global sea level, is known as the Last Glacial Maximum. There is no fixed period as to when exactly this occurred as there have been many defined periods by different researchers. So, occasionally reference is made to the Local Last Glacial Maximum [2]. For the British-Irish Ice Sheet, this occurred around 27,000 years BP [3].

Why is the Ice Age Important?

Understanding the Ice Age allows us to gain an understanding on how present-day glaciers may react to climate change, as one of the reasons the past ice sheets retreated was due to an increase in temperature, in particular the British-Irish Ice Sheet [3]. It also provides us with an understanding on the origins of the landscape of today, as these were very much influenced by the ice sheet during the Ice Age [4].

In addition, with knowledge of the Ice Age, attempts at predicting the sea level rise can be made as the melting of ice sheets increases with an increase in global temperature [5].

How can the Ice Age be Reconstructed?

The Ice Age can be reconstructed from the knowledge of existing glaciers, computer models and from field data such as sedimentary records and glacial landforms [1], [6]. These field data are analysed, to understand the behaviour and the direction of movement of the glaciers, and dated using methods like radiocarbon dating to determine when they occurred [3]. These dates are then used to understand the timeline of the glaciers.

Why Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality makes use of 3D reconstruction to create a virtual world that resembles that of the physical environment, as well as also being able to create an imaginative world [7]. 3D reconstructions have been used to model historical buildings and sites as well as artefacts, amongst many other applications. These models of buildings and sites can then be used to create virtual tours which allows for exploration as if in the physical environment.

With the use of virtual reality, it makes historical buildings or sites more widely accessible to the public [8]. In particular in times like COVID, where movement restriction or safety distancing is imposed preventing visits or large crowds to such places. Additionally, with the use of 3D reconstruction, it allows past buildings or sites that no longer exists to be visualised, as in this case with the ice age landscape reconstruction.

In museums, artefacts are typically stored in a glass box or the public having to keep a distance from them, which prevents looking closely at the details. Whereas with such reconstructions, exploration and interaction with these artefacts or buildings is possible without the potential risk of damaging them [8].

[1] D. Palacios, M. Olivia and J. M. Fernández-Fernández, “Chapter 1 – The impact of the Quaternary ice ages on the landscape,” In Iberia, Land of Glaciers, pp. 1-12, 2022. Available:

[2] P. U. Clark et al., “The Last Glacial Maximum,” Science, vol. 325, no. 5941, pp. 710-714, Aug. 2009 [Online]. Available: 10.1126/science.1172873

[3] C. D. Clark, A. L. C. Hughes, S. L. Greenwood, C. Jordan and H. P. Sejrup, “Pattern and timing of retreat of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet,” Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 44, pp. 112-146, June 2012. Available:

[4] A. McKirdy and R. Crofts, “Scotland: The Creation of its Natural Landscape: A Landscape Fashioned by Geology,” Scottish Natural Heritage, pp. 1-61, 2010. Available:

[5] NERC Science of the Environment, “BRITICE-CHRONO | Introduction from Chris Clark, Principal Investigator.” [Online]. Available:

[6] Dundee Glacier, “How thick was the ice?” Accessed: Oct. 19, 2021 [Online]. Available:

[7] Y. A. G. V. Boas, “Overview of Virtual Reality Technologies,” 2012 [Online]. Available:

[8] S. Ahmed, R. Islam, S. S. Himalay and J. Uddin, “Preserving Heritage Sites Using 3D Modelling and Virtual Reality Technology,” in ICCSP ’19: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Cryptography, Security and Privacy, 2019, pp. 267-272 [Online]. Available: