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Reconstructing the Past at Chichén Itzá

The product of more than four years of work, this repository builds on data collected during the making of the film Tales of the Maya Skies, a full-dome planetarium production that tells the story of ancient Maya cosmology. The film was led by ArtsLAB director David Beining and Alex Hall, then at the Chabot Space and Science Center.

Our subsequent open data archive contains photography along with 3D models of objects and structures at the Maya site Chichén Itzá, complemented by articles and videos that describe how to work with the data using open source software.

INSIGHT led the 3D scan documentation completed, both for the site itself and many of its most important museum objects now distributed throughout Mexico.  Funded by the National Science Foundation and Instituto Politécnico Nacional, the interdisciplinary project led to research findings in the fields of archaeology, art history and computer vision.

Beyond site documentation, the project has yielded views of what this Maya polity make have looked like in the late Postclassic period; several renderings are shown at right.

On-site digital scanning at Chichen Itza was provided by INSIGHT and CyArk, a non-profit group and INSIGHT partner based in Oakland, California.  Both the documentation and reconstruction work was included in Chabot Space and Science Center’s full dome film Tales of the Maya Skies, now playing in planetarium-style ‘full dome’ theaters around the world.

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'El Osario' as it may have looked in the late Postclassic period, Chichén Itzá
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3D rendering of el Osario as it exists today, Chichén Itzá
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3D rendering of the Upper Temple of Jaguars, in the Great Ball Court
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Restored scene at the Great Ball Court, with the decapitation of a ball player at center
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ARTSLab's David Beining atop the Caracol, a solar observatory with a cylindrical form unusual for Maya structures
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Digital model of a bound captive, or chac mool, from the upper Temple of the Warriors
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A 3D scene showing digital treatments for artifacts, vegetation and sacbeoob (paths) on site
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Maya Skies Director John Weiley and archaeologist Don Hart ascend el Osario at dawn
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An aerial view of the city as it may have looked around 980 C.E.
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Aerial detail of a large cenote and buildings connected by sacbeoob
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