Mesa Verde National Park, USA


Native American cliff dwellings in southern Colorado

Expedition Overview
CyArk documented Balcony House at Mesa Verde National Park over two days in February 2017 using LiDAR and terrestrial photogrammetry. The two technologies were combined to generate a textured 3D model of the site which was then sliced to generate drawings. CyArk was able to document the site in a short amount of time and undertook this expedition as research and development to understand the resolution possible given a limited amount of time. A final report as well as all of the architectural drawings were provided to the park at the completion of the project.
Introducing Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park's archaeological sites spans over 700 years of Native American history from 600 - 1300 CE. The renowned cliff dwellings, the height of the Puebloans' architecture, include more than 600 alcove sites. Many of these sites, such as Spruce Tree House, Square Tower House and Fire Temple, were built towards the end of the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of the Mesa. Each cliff dwelling was adapted to the topography of its alcove, making these hundreds of archaeological sites unique. While Mesa Verde's structures are centuries old, it remains an important place for American Indian communities today. Many of the sovereign Pueblo nations in New Mexico and Colorado can trace their ancestry back to this region. After Mesa Verde became known to researchers in 1874, collectors heavily pillaged the site which contained weaving, wickerwork, and ceramics of remarkable quality. However, in 1906 the site became protected under the Federal Antiquities Act, signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, making it one of the world's best managed natural, biological and archaeological reserve.
Balcony House
Balcony House overlooks Soda Canyon, about 700 feet above the narrow and rugged canyon. The canyon provided a number of important resources used in the everyday lives of the Ancestral Puebloan people. The site contains numerous buildings comprised of 40 rooms, and gets its name from its well preserved balcony. Balconies were common in the cliff dwellings, although only a few have survived to this day. There were not only access points into the second story of the buildings but also spaces used for work or drying food. A common feature in ancestral pueblo sites are kivas, also found at the Balcony house. These were circular subterranean structures that were used for both religious rituals and political meetings. While larger kivas were likely the social center for the whole community, smaller ones were the ritual and social center for specific families. 

3D rendering of textured model of Balcony House

Data from this project is now freely available through Open Heritage 3D.

Download the data from this project.

About Open Heritage 3D

The mission of the Open Heritage 3D project is to:

● Provide open access to 3D cultural heritage datasets for education, research and other
non-commercial uses.

● Minimize the technical, financial and legal barriers for publishers of 3D heritage data.

● Promote discovery and re-use of datasets through standardized metadata and data formats.

● Foster community collaboration and knowledge sharing in the 3D cultural heritage community.

● Share best practices and methodologies for the capture, processing and storage of 3D cultural heritage data

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This project was made possible by our partner the U.S. National Park Service

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