15-year project produces detailed digital drawings
The culmination of 15 years of collaborative research between Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the University of Colorado at Denver now lives in the Dolores Monument Museum.
The exhibition “Sand, stone and songs: ancient lessons from a living landscape”, opened Feb. 5 at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, and it documents six ancient Puebloan hamlets in the Montezuma Valley.
The monument has partnered with the Center of Preservation Research at the University of Colorado at Denver to digitally document prehistoric architecture.
The result was detailed architectural drawings for the Survey of Historic American Buildings available at the Library of Congress.
Canyons of the Ancients expert Vince MacMillan was the lead archaeologist on the project.
Renderings of floor plans were created from field surveys transformed into 3D digital data through methods such as terrestrial photogrammetry.
The MacMillan team applied for grants from various organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management and the State Historical Fund to complete the project.
The Lowry Pueblo near Pleasant View, which would once have had about 40 rooms and eight kivas, was the most complex to document, he said.
It is remarkable for MacMillan to see all the drawings lining the walls in a cohesive space.
“It’s quite gratifying because I feel like this program – we’ve actually done justice to these sites themselves,” he said.
MacMillan hopes visitors will appreciate the attention to detail in the designs and the care that goes into preserving historic sites.
But he also wants people to know that the designs only capture one aspect of the native cultures preserved in ancient dwellings.
“These are really important Indigenous resources, and they’re very sensitive in that it’s a tool that we’re using to try to understand some of the knowledge and wisdom that the Indigenous cultures that created these amazing structures – just trying to understand just one aspect of it and using this unique tool to do that,” he said.
Partnerships with local tribal communities have been instrumental in understanding the sites, MacMillan said.
In total, the Canyons of the Ancients monument would have 30,000 sites, according to the BLM.
The exhibit only had a soft opening due to COVID-19, MacMillan said, but he hopes for more public programming this summer, when he has scheduled presentations with architects on the project.