The above 2-minute video is an amazing you-are-there reconstruction of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1544–the time of James V and Mary Queen of Scots. Through dirt streets and narrow alleys, past Tudor houses and shops, Scotland’s capital has a distinctly medieval look, though perched on the very edge of the Early Modern world. This stunning recreation, accurate to the last building and stone wall, is the latest triumph of historians combining their traditional craft with cutting-edge technology. In this case, the “Virtual Time Binoculars” were developed by historians at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews in conjunction with a technology firm called Smart History. It’s based on a drawing from the time which is believed to be a pretty accurate and comprehensive plan of the city.

This version of Edinburgh, in real life, ceased to exist shortly thereafter. In May 1544, during a conflict called the “War of the Rough Wooing,” Edinburgh was sacked and burned by an English lord, Edward Seymour, under the orders of King Henry VIII. This was the last of many major conflicts between England and Scotland before the two were ostensibly united in 1603. I’m not tremendously familiar with this era of English and Scottish history, but the recreation speaks for itself–it’s pretty impressive.

I love stuff like this because it brings history alive for many people in a way they’re not used to seeing. Thanks to the University of St. Andrews for this amazing look at the past!