Archive for June, 2009

Chichen Itza Gets 3D Treatment…Again

June 29th, 2009 by ejalbright

A 3D photo of the Iglesia and east court of Las Monjas from 1875-6, by Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon (via John W. Hoopes)

The latest trend in the movies is an old one: 3D (for “three dimensions”). During the 1950s, when television was eating into movie attendance, theaters began showing films shot with a stereo process that, provided you wore a pair of uncomfortable cardboard glasses, you could see in three dimensions! Today, dozens of movies are being produced in 3D. The glasses have gotten slightly more comfortable, but the technology behind it has gotten more sophisticated thanks to computers. The movies are new again.

Ancient Maya sites have joined the fad. This week Yucatan’s Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana announced that it has begun scanning the Ball Court at Chichen Itza in 3D. Again, what is old is new again, because the explorer Augustus Le Plongeon photographed Chichen Itza in 3D back in 1875.

However, unlike Le Plongeon’s photographs, or even the movies, this new version of 3D is for a computer, which creates a digital version of the monument that allows the user to virtually explore it, like a video game. No uncomfortable glasses required.

According to Por Esto, the scanning of Chichen Itza is part of a $1.5 billion (Mexican) project financed by the state of Yucatan and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (National Council of Science and Technology) to scan and thereby digitally save forever Chichen Itza.

The project is being conducted by David Aceves Romero, José Huchim Herrera and the recently resigned director of INAH in Yucatan, Federica Sodi Miranda.

This is the second project to scan Chichen Itza digitally in the last two years. In late 2007 a team creating a 25-minute film for planetariums, “Maya Skies,” digitally scanned several monuments to create three-dimensional models that can be animated.

Take a look at THIS sample of the animation of the Caracol as it might look if restored. The fish-eye distortion is so the animation, when finished, can be projected on a domed ceiling such as a planetarium.

However, all of these 3D efforts are old hat when compared to what Augustus Le Plongeon accomplished in the 1870s. His images were among the earliest shot at Chichen Itza. You can find a set of these photographs HERE. Don’t forget the 3D glasses!

Previously in 3D on American Egypt:

Chichen Itza in 3D

Chichen Itza as Chess Set

Planetarium to Recreate Maya Skies

Attack of the Clones, Chichen Itza Style

Another Concept of 2012

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Report from the Field: A Visit to Chichen Itza, Post Flu

June 25th, 2009 by ejalbright

A few days ago I heard from Tony Rojas, a fellow lover of the ancient Maya ruins that clutter the Yucatan Peninsula. He had just returned from Mexico, and visited Chichen Itza. Here’s a summary of his report:

“I got there around 10 and left around 12:30,” he says. The archaeological zone was “definitely not as busy as last year at this time (noticeably fewer buses in parking lot) but still a fair crowd by departure time .”

Crowds were sparse at Chichen Itza (all photos (c) Tony Rojas, used by permission)

One big difference from earlier visits is “the desperation of the vendors,” Tony says. “They come right up to you with their wares and press hard for a sale. Twice I had to be strong to turn them down as a kind ‘no’ would just not suffice. I empathize with them but these actions will work against them in the long run with INAH and the federal government. Last year they would only talk to you as you passed them by. I don’t ever recall any coming up to me, while last week a number of them did. Very sad condition to be in really.”

A few weeks ago I had heard a couple of unconfirmed reports that INAH was conducting some excavation on the big platform upon which El Castillo and the Ball Court rest. Tony confirmed it was underway and had the pictures to prove it. “They were doing excavation and reconstruction work on the site adjacent to Temple of the Tables (which is next to the Temple of the Warriors) and also they were digging holes by the east side of El Castillo.”

Archaeologists have been excavating trenches near Castillo

“I overheard a tourist guide telling people that they are considering opening Old Chichen in the near future. But I don’t know how much reliable info those folks have but it might have some credibility,” he says.

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More Chichen Itza in 3D

June 19th, 2009 by ejalbright

Last week I published a story about a fellow in Germany who is recreating Chichen Itza digitally in three dimensions. Apparently I made a mistake on the links, so here are some more representations of Chichen Itza’s monuments, in glorious three dimensions and restored to how they may have looked when the site was inhabited. Above is the Maya observatory known as El Caracol. Below find the Temple of Warriors and the Ossario.

Here’s the correct link to the site:

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Chichen Itza Gets Googled

June 17th, 2009 by ejalbright

INAH, the Mexican agency that oversees Chichen Itza, has entered into an agreement with Google to use its media platforms (YouTube, Google Earth, Google Maps, etc.) to promote and share information about Mexico’s archaeological sites.

Details on the agreement were vague, although the heads of both INAH and Google said it seeks to promote and disseminate the cultural wealth of Mexico. According to the federal director of INAH, Alfonso de María y Campos, the agreement will provide visitors with more information about services and attractions. “Tourists can already find the Maya city of Chichen Itza on Google; soon they will be able to also find lodging close the site, to look at how to get there and return and obtain more information, such as photographs and virtual visits.”

“This is an excellent opportunity for users around the world and even Mexicans to know everything that Mexico has to offer, especially now that it is most needed to reinvigorate local and international tourism,” said John Farrell, CEO of Google Mexico.

Under the agreement, INAH and Google will each year will create between 20 and 30 Web sites and “microsites” in YouTube, Google Earth, and Google Maps. By the completion of the agreement, more than 100 archaeological treasures of Mexico will be featured. Archaeological excavations or surveys will be published as new findings emerge, including photographs and video.

While this agreement appears to be a result of the influenza crisis, it has been in the works for months.

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Chichen Itza, Maya Sites Nearly Deserted, Reports Blogger

June 14th, 2009 by ejalbright

William Lawson, at the Not-the-News blog, reports that now is the time to visit Chichen Itza and Uxmal because they are all but deserted of tourists.

According to Mr. Lawson’s intelligence, “the average number of daily visitors to Chichen Itzá is down from 6,000 to 300.” Uxmal has only 60 visitors per day.

If true, he is exactly correct: Now is the time to see Chichen Itza. Mexico is launching a campaign to bring back visitors, and you can expect that these numbers won’t stay that way for long.

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Chichen Itza in 3-D

June 7th, 2009 by ejalbright

Ever wonder what the ruins of Chichen Itza might have looked like when the Maya civilization was flourishing on the Yucatan peninsula?

A new Web site, Maya-3D, attempts to do exactly that. According to one of the creators of the site, Mathias Kohlschmidt, “We have started the attempt to reconstruct the buildings of the Toltec core of Chichén Itzá in modern 3D-Software.”

Using plans, elevations, illustrations, work by scholars and photographs, the Maya-3D team has started creating simulations of the major structures at Chichen Itza. To date they have digitally constructed El Castillo, the Temple of Warriors, the Great Ball Court, the Ossario, the Caracol, the Nunnery and other restored buildings in the archaeological zone. Below is a version of El Castillo:

Unlike the YouTube video above, visitors to their site control how they want to see the monument. They can spin it to look at a particular angle, or view one of the many close up views. Each monument also comes with a detailed description.


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US Spies for Cuba Held Clandestine Meetings at Chichen Itza

June 6th, 2009 by ejalbright

“Spy vs. Spy” tm and (c) EC Publications Inc.

If you happen to be a spy for Cuba and you need to meet your handlers, it turns out that Chichen Itza is a great location to pass top secret information.

Earlier this week the FBI arrested Walter Kendall Myers, a 30-year veteran of the US State Department, and charged him with spying for Cuba since 1979. His wife, Gwendolyn Myers, was also named in the case.

Until his retirement in 2007, Myers served as a principal analyst for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. In that role he had a security clearance that gave him access to many top-secret documents. According to the FBI, Myers and his wife would fly to Mexico to meet their contacts in the Cuban intelligence community, to whom they were known as agents 202 and 123.

In 1995, the Myers couple flew to Mexico, then to Cuba under assumed names to meet with President Fidel Castro.

In addition to meeting their handlers at Chichen Itza, the Myers also regularly met in Cancun, Mexico City, Guadalajara, as well as Trinidad, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Jamaica, a few European cities and New York.

Read the full story in La Jornada (Spanish)

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