Five College Digital Humanities Speaker Series

The Five College Digital Humanities Program is pleased to announce that Dr. Heather Richards-Rissetto from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be the first speaker to kick-off our Five College Digital Humanities speaker series.

Dr. Richards-Rissetto’s talk, “Are We in the Present, Past, or Future? 3D GIS Explorations of Vision, Sound, and Movement in Ancient Maya Cities,” will be given on December 12th 5:00 pm in N255 at the Integrative Learning Center at UMass in Amherst MA.

Ancient Maya architecture worked in concert with the natural landscape to convey messages of political power, social differences, and cosmological beliefs. Temples, ball courts, palaces, and plazas offered sights and sounds to create synesthetic experiences that influenced daily life and shaped society.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer tools and methods to derive quantified and geovisualized data. Digital technologies such as photogrammetry, laser scanning and airborne LiDAR allow us to create 3D models of extant architecture within contemporary landscapes. But how do we simulate ancient cities rather than simply visualize present archaeological landscapes? 3D Modeling software affords us possibilities to reconstruct non-extant architecture but typically requires time-consuming manual modeling. An alternative—procedural modeling—applies “standardized” rules to rapidly generate 3D architectural models allowing simulations of ancient cities based on GIS data. Recent advances in immersive Virtual Reality (VR) allow us to bring these GIS and 3D data into VR environments for cross-disciplinary humanistic and scientific analysis. In this talk, I discuss how the MayaCityBuilder Project is using GIS and 3D data to explore sight, sound, and movement in eighth century Copan—today a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Honduras.

Find out more about Dr. Heather Richards-Rissetto’s work at

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