Thursday, June 16, 2011


A complex and colorful mural 45 meters wide and 4 meters high painted on canyon walls some 4,000 years ago, is being scanned with lasers to produce a high-resolution 3-D image, in efforts to gauge the mural's deterioration, detect images long ago weathered away, and protect it from the unintended consequences of a nearby reservoir.

Panther Cave - so-named from the 4 meter long figure of a leaping red panther guarding its entrance - overlooks the Rio Grande about 80 kilometers west of Del Rio, and is among the best known of several hundred prehistoric pictograph sites that dot the steep, rugged canyons along the USA-Mexico border.

"They are ancient texts, not just drawing on walls," says Carolyn Boyd, head of the Shumla School, an archeological research center working with state and federal agencies on the project.

A camera about the size of a microwave oven passes over a 15 to 25 centimeter square on each scan, collecting images accurate to 1mm. Color photographs are then overlaid on the images to give researchers a clear picture of how the site has changed over the centuries. Other images taken with color-sensitive photo equipment reveal parts of the paintings no longer visible to the naked eye. Check out the images -- they are amazing!

Edited from Associated Press, Beaumont Enterprise (29 May 2011)
[4 images]


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