Digital Archaeology

The primary objective of the Monte Albán Digital Archaeology Project (MADAP) is to collect and analyze digital data to shed light on the function, role, and meaning of the Main Plaza through time. In addition, the MADAP seeks to share this information with the public through a variety of innovative digital visualization tools.

Much of the data utilized by the MADAP was collected in the field, including total station mapping and drone-aided aerial photogrammetry of the site’s Main Plaza. We are carrying out a microtopographical study of the Main Plaza’s surface to gain a better understanding of spatial relationships and subsurface deposits. We are also using a host of GIS tools to explore the function, use, and meaning of Monte Albán’s Main Plaza. In addition, we have used these data to generate 3D renderings of the Main Plaza architecture and to develop a virtual reality environment.


We utilized a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or “drone” to collect digital photos and videos of the Main Plaza and surrounding areas. With the help of a supercomputer, we are processing these photogrammetric data to create a high resolution topographic maps. The final result will be the most accurate map ever made of Monte Albán’s Main Plaza. We are also creating 3D models of all the structures on the Main Plaza to carry out volumetric measurements and aid interpretation. See examples of the results of this work on the Visualizations page.

Total Station Mapping

Our team used a robotic total station to generate a detailed topographic map of the Main Plaza that provides resolution of less than a centimeter. More than 18,000 points were registered and analysis results are underway. We plan to link this microtopographic study of the plaza with our analysis buried “anomalies” discovered by the geophysical survey. These data may also shed light on other plaza dynamics, such as drainage and patterns of access and use.

3D Models



Building J


Building L:


Visualization of Main Plaza (fly-over from North):


Visualization of Main Plaza (fly-over from West):


Visualization of Ballcourt:

3D Printing

Virtual Reality

Coming soon…


Augmented Reality

Coming soon…