Time is constantly a threat to Mesa Verde National Park. As it passes, and brings with it erosion, rock falls and possibly earthquakes, the park's ruins are at risk of collapse. But a new laser technology is providing the park with, in essence, blueprints of the ruins.
The documentation technology is the brainchild of Ben Kacyra, who developed long-range laser scanning back in the 1990s. When combined with high-resolution photography, this 3-dimensional process -- which is accurate to half a centimeter -- becomes known as "High Definition Documentation." At Mesa Verde, HDD has been used to map the "Fire Temple," one of the park's more than 600 cliff dwellings.
"The amazing technology and support provided by TTU (Texas Tech University), CyArk (a non-profit arm of the Kacyra Family Foundation), and Ben Kacyra is allowing staff to document sites in a very detailed manner, with a speed previously unavailable to us," says Mesa Verde Superintendent Larry Wiese. "Documentation of an archeological site that would have taken many months, can now initially be done in days. The analysis includes detailed documentation, 3D imaging, structural analysis and modeling, quick access from computer files to be used by field personnel, and remote access by researchers and students.
"Ultimately, this is helping us to understand and protect this resource and tell a more accurate story of Mesa Verde to our national and international visitors and researchers."
To better understand this technology and its applications, watch this short video clip that was produced by PBS Wired Science.