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Unreal Archaeology

Dr. David R. Hixson, Adjunct Professor of Geography and Anthropology presents

“Unreal Archaeology: Combining Aerial Drones, Digital Animation, and Dirt Archaeology to recreate Ancient Landscapes”

Friday October 16th, 2-3 PM
Presented using Zoom (Click for link)

Technology has advanced considerably over the past 25 years as we have moved from mapping archaeological sites using standard surveying methods to high-tech digital imaging.  Many of the latest techniques, however, remain beyond the budgets of the everyday archaeologist. Dr. Hixson has, therefore, focused his research upon the consumer-grade equipment that can be purchased off-the-shelf to quickly map, visualize, and recreate ancient landscapes. He will demonstrate the use of UAV’s (aerial drones) to acquire high precision survey data at multiple archaeological sites, from the Ancient Maya region to the Plantations of Northern Virginia. This data is then used to visualize the landscape within videogame rendering software originally designed for games like Unreal Tournament and Fortnite.  These landscapes can then be not only viewed, but “experienced” in the first-person view, or even in Virtual Reality.  The lecture will provide an instructional workflow so that attendees can begin to apply the same technology their own research or areas of interest. A Virtual Reality headset will be available at the talk for attendees to experience the ancient Maya site of Chunchucmil, Yucatan.


Dr. David R. Hixson (Ph.D. Tulane University) is an adjunct professor of Geography and Anthropology at Shepherd University and Hood College (MD).  He specializes in archaeological remote sensing — the use of technology to detect, visualize, and analyze archaeological objects and landscapes. With over 25 years of professional experience, Dr. Hixson has excavated at sites all over the eastern United States, but today focuses upon the Ancient Maya of Yucatan, Mexico, and the antebellum plantations of the Shenandoah Valley.  His work at Belle Grove Plantation has just been awarded a prestigious “Epic Megagrant” from the videogame company Epic Games to recreate the antebellum landscape of that important national heritage site. The talk is given at Shepherd is part of a larger project that is to be presented at the national meetings of the Society for American Archaeology later this semester.