Xbox Kinect helps preserve Paraguayan rock art

Posted by Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling

Deforestation and slash-and-burn farming are destroying lands that have belonged to indigenous tribes for centuries. These people have lived among the trees and wildlife in harmony, treating each plant and creature as a sacred gift.

Now, commercial development and the Western world’s quest for cheap resources is closing in on these tribes, threatening to erase their existence with one swipe of the
bulldozer.

Frank Weaver, a documentary filmmaker and native Paraguayan who now lives in Florida, has watched as these signs of “progress” have encroached on the Paraguayan jungle.

Although his work focuses on the ancient ways of Paraguay’s Panambi’y Indians, Weaver has discovered that a decidedly modern technology may be key to saving some of the most precious artifacts. Weaver is crowdfunding a project that would use the popular Microsoft Kinect to create 3-D renders of the tribe’s endangered rock art that can then be explored and enjoyed virtually by anyone around the world.

"To the local Pai Tavytera Indians the Amambay hills are sacred and the carvings found within the rock-shelters play an important role in their spiritual life," writes Weaver. "The rock-art ranges from pecked human figures dating to the stone-age to carvings encompassing solar images, animal paws, human genitalia and geometric symbols from the more recent past.”

The purpose for his crowdfunding campaign is two-fold: First, to create a half-hour documentary about the inscriptions, the special place they hold in the lives of the Pai Tavytera, and the struggle the people face at the confluence of economic progress, environmental conservation and cultural preservation. Second, to use the Xbox Kinect to scan the inscription sites to create a virtual model that can be studied and explored virtually by people all over the world.

The entire project will be released under a creative commons license so that the images and information can be shared freely among all societies and cultures. Even if we can’t literally stop the bulldozers from destroying this precious lands, projects like this allow us to prevent the elimination of these special cultures from our consciousness.

The Kickstarter campaign only has 14 more days to reach its goal of $15,000. Learn more here.

Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling