This presentation is part of the 2017 3D Digital Documentation Summit.

3D Digital Documentation and Analysis of the Reef Bay Valley Petroglyphs, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands National Park

The Taino people, who were indigenous to the Caribbean region, carved a series of prehistoric petroglyphs on stone outcrops located in a remote portion of the Reef Bay Valley in the Virgin Islands National Park on the Island of St. John. The pre-Hispanic residents of St. John materialized their ideological expressions in petroglyphs and other types of imagery that were further strengthened through their locational or landscape context. The ideological beliefs of the islands’ inhabitants were expressed not only by the specific designs or motifs portrayed, but also by the terrains and environments in which they were produced or contained. Therefore, the landscapes in which rock art were located appear to have been as significant to the creators as the images themselves.

Recently, the University of South Florida Libraries’ Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections (DHHC), working in conjunction with the National Park Service’s (NPS) Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) and the Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS), recorded the petroglyphs and the surrounding landscape using a suite of high definition digital and 3D imaging techniques. The acquired datasets were processed and purposed for multiple applications and visualization techniques. The project not only generated a more detailed, accurate, and complete record of the carvings for virtual preservation, but the digitally conserved resources were prepared to assist the National Park Service in the management, maintenance, and monitoring of the cultural assets. Additionally, the results were used in the development of interpretive off-site displays and interactive virtualizations that would enhance the visitor experience and are also being used for educational and public outreach programs.

The data also allowed scientific research and analysis, which is the focus of this paper. The project produced several new findings that included the detection of a number of previously undocumented glyphs as well as substantial additional information that informed on the ideological practices of the island’s pre-Hispanic residents. The natural setting of the petroglyph site is striking, and it is unlike anywhere else on the island. Its physical presence combined with its insolated location would have been key factors in its selection as a sacred ceremonial site. Jean Clottes (2008:1) states that “[t]he preservation of rock art, both as a cultural heritage and as an archaeological resource, is crucial. In addition to preserving the art, we must work to preserve the associated natural and cultural environments.” The petroglyphs and their surrounding context were digitally recorded using a series of progressive and conventional two and three-dimensional digital spatial technologies and virtualization techniques. Data acquisition included terrestrial laser scanning, various high-resolution photographic and photogrammetric techniques, and global positioning system data and images. Beyond generating a more detailed, accurate, and complete record of the carvings, the surrounding landscape that comprises the cultural environment or context of was also digitally captured. The collected spatial and imagery data demonstrated support for a connection between the carved symbols, the natural landscape, and the human pre-Columbian visitor to the site. Overall. the evidence supports the theory that the site was situated within a sacred landscape and was used repeatedly as a place of rituals for more than a millennium.

Clottes, Jean
2008 Rock Art: An Endangered Heritage Worldwide. Journal of Anthropological Research 64(1):1-18.

Speaker Bios
Dr. Travis Doering is an Assistant Research Professor and co-Director of the University of South Florida (USF) Library’s Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections. He is affiliated faculty in the USF School of Geosciences and courtesy professor in the Department of Anthropology. He has directed research projects across the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, and has conducted 3D surveys at European World Heritage sites in Armenia, France, and Spain. His interests span numerous digital technologies including terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry and imaging. His specializations include rock art and stone monument digitization and iconographic analysis, architectural documentation, and landscape analysis.

Dr. Lori Collins is the co-Director of the University of South Florida (USF) Library’s Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections, and is a Research Associate Professor in the USF School of Geosciences. She has led a number of research projects in National Parks, and specializes in the application of LiDAR and terrestrial laser scanning and imaging for heritage documentation. She teaches courses on technologies for heritage preservation, Global Positioning Systems, 3D printing, and museum visualizations. Areas of primary interest are in landscape preservation and management, iconographic and rock art documentation, and LiDAR and terrestrial laser scanning applications for heritage.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119