Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

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Vitual Reality Reconstruction and Analysis of Ancient Maya Architecture: Case Studies from Yucatan and Belize by Jeffrey Vadala, PhD, The College of New Jersey and David Hixson, PhD, Hood College, MD

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.

The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

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The discipline of archaeology has gone through a major digital revolution in the past two decades, especially in the realm of cultural landscape interpretation. Entire sites and regions have been revealed beneath the forest canopies using costly and complex LiDAR systems, or mapped on the ground using terrestrial laser scanning. Most everyday archaeologists, however, have been waiting for the day when costly 3D mapping platforms such as these can be made more available to those on modest research budgets. Fortunately, several alternative methods that are cheaper, widely available, and require less technical expertise have been developed. The first part of this presentation will discuss one of these methods, specifically a photogrammetric technique known as “Structure from Motion,” or SFM.

SFM photogrammetry has the potential to not only create basic height maps of surface structures, but can also create photorealistic 3D visualizations. The practical limitations on the creation of these 3D visualizations has traditionally been due to the limits of home computer processing power, and the technical knowledge of the archaeologist managing the data. Steady hardware improvements, however, have recently solved these issues while software has made it possible for 3D models generated through inexpensive survey methods to be converted into embodied fully interactive 360-degree 3D Virtual Reality(VR) spaces.

Three-D interactive VR reconstructions have been extremely difficult and time intensive to produce. Solving this issue, we describe a flexible, low-cost, and rapid methodology of creating 3D interactive VR simulations that can utilize various types of digital and nondigital archaeological data. We demonstrate this methodology in the context of two case studies from ancient Maya sites.

Dr. David R. Hixson is a professional archaeologist who began his life among the Maya as a teenage volunteer in rural Yucatan.  Currently a visiting assistant professor at Hood College, he has spent over a quarter century working alongside the Maya of Yucatan in his studies of Maya culture, past and present. He has spent over a decade of that time dedicated to the Classic Period mercantile city of Chunchucmil, Yucatan. Dr. Hixson’s technical specialization is remote sensing and settlement pattern studies, but with a passion for archaeological illustration.

Dr. Jeffrey Vadala has conducted investigations at ancient Maya sites in the Yucatan and Northern Belize. At the site of Cerro Maya (formerly known as Cerros Belize), Dr. Vadala’s research utilized VR analytical methods, Bayesian statistical modeling, assemblage theory and new sociological theory to characterize the development of early Maya material practices, architectural calendar systems, and social orders. Dr. Vadala has used VR as a teaching tool to bring students (Hampshire College, University of Florida, Stetson University, The College of New Jersey) to ancient sites while allowing them to explore and create their own spatial analytical theories regarding the usage of ancient space and metaphysical beliefs.

Earlier Event: October 4

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