3D Scanning Project

Peabody Museum’s Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions program (CMHI)

Barbara Fash (CMHI Director)

Alexandre Tokovinine (CMHI, Research Associate and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology)

2013 Scanning Project Report


CMHI 3D scanner in the field lab at Copan.

In 2007 the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI) research program at the Peabody Museum launched the first 3D scanning project to document ancient Maya monuments. Over the past five years the project, in collaboration with several governments and institutions, the CMHI program has documented over 30 Maya sculptures from 10 different archaeological sites and museum collections, in addition to the entire 64-step Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan, Honduras.

As the widespread application of 3D digitizing systems continues to expand within archaeology and cultural heritage management, a goal of this project has been to set the standards specifically for 3D scanning of Maya monuments as well as share the digital 3D models with researchers and the public worldwide. The ability to capture the extremely detailed 3D images is a particularly welcome development for Maya epigraphic studies, and is revolutionizing the way decipherments of the ancient scripts are achieved.

Digital scanning is non-invasive and creates a detailed, undistorted record, which helps to preserve the incredibly rich material heritage of the ancient Maya culture from the combined threats of deteriorating environmental conditions, negligence, vandalism.

Virtual 3D models can be viewed from multiple angles with changeable raking light direction that enables epigraphers to see details of the glyphs on the computer screen that may be invisible to the naked eye. Virtual models can also be reproduced as solid replicas.

Each 3D model is produced from multiple overlapping scans of an object captured from various angles. The CMHI uses a portable optical system of structured white light that projects a series of patterns on the surface of the object being scanned. (http://www.breuckmann.com/en/industry-technology/products/smartscan.html)

Data can be captured at the following resolutions:

Highest resolution 0.055mm/ lens 90mm FOV (field of view)
Medium resolution 0.18mm/ lens 300mm FOV
Lowest resolution 0.36mm/ lens 600mm FOV

Regardless of the data capture resolution, at least four versions of each model are processed at different resolutions and compressions and saved for different uses.

To view a selection of low-resolution 3D models from the Peabody collection click on the gallery thumbnails to activate.

  • Copan Peccary skull
  • Copan HS figure
  • La Corona panels
  • Piedras Negras panel

Related Links:  

Symbols, 2008 pgs 17–20. http://peabody.harvard.edu/node/35



Barbara Fash, 2011, “Beyond the Naked Eye: Multidimensionality of Sculpture in Archaeological Illustration” http://www.doaks.org/research/pre-columbian/resources-for-pre-columbian-scholars-1/past-presented-a-symposium-on-the-history-of-archaeological-illustration/doaks-pco-symposium-2009-10-09-abstracts