Anthropologist bringing together GIS and 3-D technology

Photo Credit: Heather Richards-Rissetto
by School of Natural Resources Mon, 03/28/2016 - 10:46

Since the 1980s, Geographic Information Systems have increasingly become a mainstay of the archaeologist’s geospatial toolkit. While 3D technologies such as laser scanning and photogrammetry are relatively recent additions to this toolkit, they are quickly becoming integral to archaeological research. 

As a landscape archaeologist, Heather Richards-Rissetto uses both to study how the ancient Maya engaged with their physical environment and how this engagement influenced cultural processes and practices. 

At 2:30 p.m. Friday in Room 228 of Hardin Hall, Richards-Rissetto, assistant anthropology professor, will discuss how the MayaArch3D and MayaCityBuilder Projects are working to develop tools to bring together GIS and 3D technologies to study ancient Maya architecture and landscapes. Her research focuses on the archaeological site of Copan — today a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Honduras — but from the 5th to 9th centuries CE, it was a cultural and commercial crossroads at the southeast periphery of the Maya world. 

In regard to 3D technology, researchers are using airborne LiDAR, terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry to create 3D models of what exists today. They are in the process of integrating these 3D models along with georeferenced CAD models into Unity — a game development engine — to allow people to interact with different types of models and explore 3D simulations of Copan’s ancient landscape. 

Richards-Rissetto also will talk about recent efforts into using immersive technologies such as Oculus Rift and gesture-based technologies to augment our research. 

​​Richards-Rissetto is an archaeologist specializing in the ancient Maya of Central America. She is assistant professor in Anthropology and a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. She uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 3D visualization to investigate how the accessibility and visibility of architecture communicated information and structured social experience in past societies. Her current interests involve using gesture-based and immersive technologies such as Microsoft Kinect, Leap Motion and Oculus Rift.


Story from the School of Natural Resources.