Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Goodwin, G. and H. Richards-Rissetto. “Modelling acoustics in ancient Maya cities: Moving towards synesthetic experience using GIS & 3D Simulation.” Digital Archaeologies, Material Worlds (Past and Present). Proceedings of the 45rd Annual Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology edited by J. Glover, J. Moss, and D. Rissolo, pp. 73-86. Tubingen University Press.


Open access license CC BY-NC-ND


Archaeological analyses have successfully employed 2D and 3D tools to measure vision and movement within cityscapes; however, built environments are often designed to invoke synesthetic experiences. GIS and Virtual Reality (VR) now enable archaeologists to also measure the acoustics of ancient spaces. To move toward an understanding of synesthetic experience in ancient Maya cities, we employ GIS and 3D modelling to measure sound propagation and reverberation using the main civic-ceremonial complex in ancient Copán as a case study. For the ancient Maya, sight and sound worked in concert to create ritually-charged atmospheres and architecture served to shape these experiences. Together with archaeological, iconographic, and epigraphic data, acoustic measures help us to (1) examine potential locations of ritual performance and (2) determine spatial placement and capacity of participants in these events. We use an immersive VR headset (Oculus Rift) to integrate vision with spatial sound and sight to facilitate an embodied experience.