Digital Preservation of Ancient Maya Cave Architecture: Recent Field Efforts in Quintana Roo, Mexico


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Publication Date

January 2017


The presence of ancient Maya shrines in caves serves as unequivocal evidence for the ritual appropriation of these subterranean spaces and their significance with respect to Maya religious practice. Detailed study of the miniature masonry temples and altar features in the caves of Quintana Roo, Mexico reveals a strong stylistic and likely functional correspondence between these structures and their terrestrial counterparts at Postclassic sites. The Proyecto Arquitectura Subterranea de Quintana Roo (coordinated by the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology, or CISA3, at the University of California, San Diego and in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia in Mexico) is conducting a survey and program of digital documentation of both the pristine and impacted cave shrines of the region. Once an area is developed and populated, and access is opened to caves containing ancient architectural features, they are soon vandalized – often resulting in the complete obliteration of these rare miniature buildings and their diagnostic architectural elements. This emergent situation necessitates the use of rapid reality-capture tools; however, the physical challenges of working in caves requires researchers of adapt increasingly common architectural documentation methodologies to more adverse field conditions.


Maya, Caves, Architecture, Mexico, Digital Preservation




The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XLII-2/W5, 2017 26th International CIPA Symposium 2017, Vol. 42, no. 2 (2017).