The 3D Petit Jean project uses state-of-the-art, laser scanning technology to create 3D models of the bluff shelters and the rock art that was created in them by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. This effort aims to precisely document the dozens of pictographs and petroglyphs and the complex environment they were created in as well provide a means to help visitors locate and understand them. Indian Cave is not accessible to visitors, but because of its restricted size and limited number of motifs, it provides an interesting contrast to the larger Rockhouse Cave – home to the largest concentration of rock art in Arkansas with over 100 motifs. Rockhouse Cave is also the only rock art site in Arkansas with public access. Thousands of visitors explore this bluff shelter each year in search of these interesting images, but most walk away without finding a single one. Many are quite small and difficult to see even to someone who has located them before; however, even the largest figures remain hidden to the great majority of visitors in the vastness and complexity of Rockhouse Cave.
In addition to assisting visitors find and learn more about these interesting images, another goal of this project is to create a 3D scaled model of each shelter and their surrounding environments to educate the public about the location and history of rock art in the park. The results have been published on this website and are also available as part of two interactive kiosks that have been installed in Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park.
Funded by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, researchers from the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) at the University of Arkansas documented both shelters using the Leica C10 long range scanner. The Leica C10 is a time-of-flight scanner that captures 3-dimensional data with color texture at a rate of up to 50,000 points/second. When surveying with the C10, multiple scans are acquired across a location and all scans are stitched together using specialized software to create a complete 3D, scaled representation of a site. The resulting dataset is commonly referred to as a point cloud in which each point represents a 3D position measured by the scanner (X,Y,Z) with color information (R,G,B). It is fairly typical for a final merged dataset to contain hundreds of millions or even billions of points depending on the size and complexity of the area surveyed.
The Final Product
Project developers created a custom application using Three.js that allows web users to virtually explore both Indian Cave and Rockhouse Cave. Users are encouraged to view and discover the Native American rock art present at each location. Once found, the user can select each individual motif to retrieve additional content. When a motif is selected, the user has the ability to view a video, featuring renowned rock art expert and archaeologist, Dr. George Sabo providing an interpretation of the rock art, and to also view an enhanced set of images that tease the rock art out of its surrounding context. Researchers used the DStretch plugin (http://www.dstretch.com/) to accentuate the rock art in the photographs. Additional information about the art at each shelter is located in the information panel on the left side of the screen.