Visualizing an Ancient Maya City

Hi! My name is Heather Richards-Rissetto. I am a new postdoctoral fellow at the HUMlab. I am here with my husband-John-and my two sons-Enzo (2 1/2 years old) and Carlo (6 months old). We are looking forward to an adventurous year in Sweden. Enzo, especially, is looking forward to sledding in the snow–something he has never done as we come from a hot, dry desert.

As for me, I am an archaeologist with a PhD from the University of New Mexico (USA). My dissertation “Exploring Social Interaction at the Ancient Maya City of Copán, Honduras: A Multi-Scalar Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Approach to Access and Visibility” evaluated late eighth and early ninth-century social relations at the archaeological site of Copán. I looked specifically at social connectivity between people of different social classes. To study social connectivity, I developed an innovative method in GIS that measures the degree of social integration and social segregation in relation to access and visibility, specifically between different groups and specific locations in the ancient city.

My research project at the HUMlab builds on my dissertation work and uses the GIS data to reconstruct Copan’s ancient landscape in a 3D simulated environment. My research emphasizes human interaction with both the built environment and the natural landscape and as such the 3D visualization will incorporate anthropogenic and natural components. Ultimately, this 3D landscape will be linked to GIS data to allow me (and other scholars) to better explore ancient social dynamics at Copan. It also (hopefully) will serve as a prototype for future projects by offering a new digital tool for humanistic studies.

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