3D-WebGIS for Archeology – the example of MayaArch3D

Archaeological projects increasingly collect airborne LiDAR data to use as a remote sensing tool for survey and analysis. Publication possibilities for LiDAR datasets, however, are limited due to the large size and often proprietary nature of the data. Fortunately, web-based, geographic information systems (WebGIS) that can securely manage temporal and spatial data hold great promise as virtual research environments for working with and publishing LiDAR data. To test this and to obtain new data for archaeological research, in 2013, the MayaArch3D Project (www.mayaarch3d.org) collected LiDAR data for the archaeological site of Copan, Honduras. Results are presented in a new journal paper. They include:
– 1) more accurate archaeological maps,
– 2) identification of unrecorded archaeological features,
– 3) an assessment of combining LiDAR and ground-checking to increase data accuracy in ecologically and topographically diverse landscapes, and
– 4) new LiDAR datasets that are hosted in a 3D WebGIS and integrated with other archaeological data to enhance data accessibility and collaborative research.
The 3D WebGIS visibility tools in the system enable the user to investigate in the 3D Scene Viewer, for example, the intervisibility of Copan’s stelae, alignments of structures to topographic features, or alternate lighting on 3D models of sculpture to reveal details of inscriptions. The tool, “QueryArch3D-WebGIS”, is a 3D WebGIS visualization and analytical tool that can be adapted for other archaeological sites worldwide.


von Schwerin, J., Richards-Rissetto, H., Remondino, F., Spera, M.G., Auer, M., Billen, N., Loos, L., Stelson, L., Reindel, M. (2016): Airborne LiDAR acquisition, post-processing and accuracy-checking for a 3D WebGIS of Copan, Honduras. In: J. Archaeol. Sci. Reports 5, 85–104. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.11.005

Auer, M., Agugiaro, G., Billen, N., Loos, L. & Zipf, A. (2014): Web-based Visualization and Query of semantically segmented multiresolution 3D Models in the Field of Cultural Heritage. In: ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, II-5, doi:10.5194/isprsannals-II-5-33-2014, pp. 33-39.