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:
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