Read More UMBC News Blog Stories

June 7, 2000

UMBC Lab Resurrects Ancient New Mexican Culture, Digitally

Baltimore, Md. - On Friday, June 16, PBS viewers will be the first to lay eyes on ceremonial buildings constructed more than one thousand years ago, thanks to digital renderings by UMBC's Imaging Research Center (IRC).

"The Mystery of Chaco Canyon," narrated by Robert Redford, is a one-hour documentary featuring fifteen minutes of animation created at the IRC. Alan Price, associate director of the Imaging Research Center, worked with several UMBC students in the IRC Internship program on 3-D animations for the program.

"The students worked with information based on archaeological surveys of the ancient ruins," says Price. "Visualization of the canyon required a model so large it had to be separated into sixteen parts and rendered in multiple layers," which, Price notes, meant logging hundreds of hours on the IRC's Silicon Graphics workstations.

The IRC-created digital models reconstruct the complex ceremonial Chacoan buildings, built between 850 and 1150 AD. Based in northwestern New Mexico and arranged in alignment with the sun and moon, the buildings are the only link to the Chacoan culture, which left behind no written text.

Produced by the Solstice Project and directed by Project founder Anna Sofaer, the program is the fruit of more than twenty years of research into the ceremonial buildings left behind in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. Sofaer founded the non-profit Solstice Project in 1978 to "study, document and preserve the remarkable Sun Dagger -- a celestial calendar of the ancient Pueblo Indians -- and other achievements of ancient Southwestern cultures."

UMBC's IRC is one of only a few research and development centers nationally that combines undergraduate and graduate education with professional training in animation and computer imaging. Through internships, undergraduates gain professional training in animation and computer imaging through projects for national clients such as CNN and the Discovery Channel.

For additional information on the program and a listing of broadcast times, go to

# # #

Posted by dwinds1 at June 7, 2000 12:00 AM