-- The Secret of our Success --
In August Shumla launched the
with the goal of conducting baseline documentation at over 300 known rock art sites within Val Verde County. One of the main reasons for the project is to preserve these incredible and informative sites for future generations. Many of the pictographs are deteriorating, some disappearing all together, due to age and weathering.
One of the challenges of preserving rock art is that there is no way to conserve the physical pictograph panels. There is nothing we can put on the panel and no way to safely remove the panel to "save" the art. The only way to ensure the murals are preserved for future generations is through documentation and digital preservation.
In order to digitally preserve the rock art sites in Val Verde County we employ two primary methods:
- Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry to produce 3D models and
- GigaPan panoramas.
SfM and GigaPan require taking dozens to hundreds of overlapping photographs. Both create high-resolution images of the rock art panels.
How we use SfM and GigaPan photography will be detailed in a blog post in our upcoming Alexandria Project Blog (launching very soon!). The main difference is that:
- SfM produces a scaled, 3D model of the entire rock art panel, including the rock shelter that houses it, by capturing multiple images moving across the entire shelter.
- GigaPan captures a high-resolution 2D panorama of the panel from a special machine placed in a single location.
The most exciting thing about GigaPan and SfM is that we are able to create an unparalleled visual and spatial inventory of Lower Pecos rock art
digitally preserve the rock art imagery for future generations.
So, you might be asking what we mean by "digital preservation." At the most basic level, digital preservation is documenting a physical object in its current condition using digital techniques. You do it every day! You take cell phone pictures of landscapes, food, experiences and people. You're digitally preserving that object or perosn in that moment.
Archaeologists all over the world use advanced digital documentation methods to preserve sites, artifacts, and features.
Our colleague Dr. Robert Selden at Stephen F. Austin State University uses laser scanners to create digital 3D replicas of ceramic and lithic artifacts (see
). In France, a complete replica of the famous Paleolithic cave art site of Lascaux has been created for visitors to enjoy because access to the site is heavily restricted. You can take a virtual tour of Lascaux online (see
), or visit the replica in person to experience the site (see
International Centre for Cave Art
Like Lascaux, if one of the rock art panels we document through the Alexandria project were to be destroyed tomorrow, we could recreate it using the SfM and GigaPan data. What's more, by digitizing these rock art panels we are able to share the incredible assemblage of Lower Pecos rock art with the world (see
Panther Cave Animation
) and begin our iconographic analysis to study the art and identify patterns.
We feel we have an obligation as scientists and stewards to both study the ancient art and preserve it for future generations.
SfM and GigaPan makes it possible for us to create a digital archaeological record to be studied and enjoyed for generations to come.
Now It's Your Turn!
Do you want to see the rock art we have currently documented through the Alexandria Project? Visit:
- Our Sketchfab site to see and manipulate our 3D models, and
- Our GigaPan profile to see our 2D Gigapan panoramas.
Stay tuned! We've only just begun!
-- Charles Koenig, Alexandria Project, Project Archaeologist