Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Heather Richards-Rissetto

Date of this Version


Document Type



A thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

Major: Anthropology

Under the supervision of Professor Heather Richards-Rissetto

Lincoln, Nebraska, August 2018


Copyright (c) 2018, Graham Goodwin


Digital technologies enable modeling of the potential role of sound in past environments. While digital approaches have limitations in objectively rendering reality, they provide an expanded platform that potentially increases our understanding of experience in the past and enhances the investigation of ancient landscapes. Digital technologies enable new experiences in ways that are multi-sensual and move us closer toward reconstructing holistic views of past landscapes. Archaeologists have successfully employed 2D and 3D tools to measure vision and movement within cityscapes. However, built environments are often designed to invoke synesthetic experiences that also include sound and other senses. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Virtual Reality (VR) allow archaeologists to measure and explore the acoustics of ancient spaces. I employ GIS and 3D modeling o measure sound propagation and reverberation using the main civic-ceremonial complex in ancient Copán as a case study. The goal is to create a synesthetic experience to enrich our and understanding of the role sight and sound played in ancient Maya cities. For the ancient Maya, sight and sound worked in concert to create ritually charged atmospheres and architecture served to shape these experiences. I use an immersive VR headset (Oculus Rift) to integrate vision with spatial sound and sight to facilitate an embodied experience in order to: (1) examine potential locations of ritual performance and (2) determine spatial placement and capacity of participants in these events.

Advisor: Heather Richards-Rissetto