Imagery, including technical sketches, profiles, drawings, paintings, photographs, film, and Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD), has long been central to the discipline of archaeology. Interpretation, exhibitions, and teaching about the past would be difficult, if not impossible, without imagery. Under the direction of American Section Curator Clark Erickson and Dr. Norman Badler of Penn’s Department of Computer and Information Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, four Penn student summer interns began the development of prototypes for a future high-tech digital exhibition about the Peruvian sacred site of Pachacamac.
In 1895–1896, archaeologist Max Uhle obtained one of the Penn Museum’s largest collections from the site of Pachacamac. This diverse collection contains over 12,000 objects, including many artifacts of fragile organic materials, such as gourds, wood, feathers, fibers, skin, remains of food offerings and ritual feasting, and the textile-wrapped mummified bodies of humans and animals preserved in the dry environment of coastal Peru. For more than 1,000 years, he temples, pyramids, palaces, plazas, and oracle of Pachacamac were the destinations for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from throughout the Andes who came here to worship a central deity here whose presence is still vibrant in myth, oral history, and Peruvian identity.
The future Pachacamac digital exhibition will stress the importance of archaeological context by using large-scale projection of digital imagery to imagine the environmental, archaeological, and social context of life at the site. To this end, summer intern Adam Mally created a 3D digital model of the entire site of Pachacamac and details of two of the major temples at the site based on archival photographs from the Museum Archives and recent maps. Vijay Shingala modeled archaeological pottery from the collection to populate the 3D model. “Dio” Shutong Yu developed virtual models of an adult male and female Andean person that can be animated using motion capture techniques of modern cinema to show specific movements of pilgrimage, rituals, dance, and daily activity. Carly Lewis and Jeanette Nicewinter provided anthropological research about the collection and Andean culture to help the modelers and explored the cutting edge of installation art exhibitions. In the fall of 2011, Erickson and Badler are offering an undergraduate studio-seminar course to explore digital media applications for the future Pachacamac exhibition.