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Visualizing the Aztecs

By ­niversity of ­tah News

September 24, 2009

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University of Utah professor Antonio Serrato-Combe has created a British Museum exhibition that allows visitors to digitally explore the empire of the last elected Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma II. The exhibit presents the ancient architecture that served as the center of Aztec ceremonial life through a new digital modeling process.

Moctezuma's greatest achievement was the construction of the Templo Mayor Precinct in Tenochtitlan, Mexico, which is now Mexico City. The Templo Mayor was the epicenter for Aztec ceremonial life and many have wondered what it looked like. For the past two decades Serrato-Combe has been working to solve that mystery by using technology and architecture tools. To visualize his research, Serrato-Combe created a digital illustrated book.

"Digital tools in architecture are unique in that they provide a communication channel where a student does or proposes something and the computer responds," he says. "The conversation between student and machine triggers a variety of actions that eventually make the academic experience more exciting and fruitful."

The digital modeling process for the exhibit started by simulating structures based on historical accounts and current archaeological data, including satellite imagery. After completing a complex drawing-layer system, a solid model was constructed to determine the overall dimensions for the most important structures that archaeologists have been unable to uncover so far.

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