Heather Richards-Rissetto

Heather Richards-Rissetto
Associate Professor Anthropology


Heather Richards-Rissetto is an archaeologist specializing in the ancient Maya of Central America. She is an Associate Professor in Anthropology and a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Most recently, she had a NEH-Mellon Digital Publication Fellowship for the project “Web-Based  Multi-Sensory  3D  Explorations of  Vision,  Sound,  and  Movement  in the  Ancient Maya City  of  Copan.” Previously, she held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the HUMlab at Umeå University in Sweden and was a National Science Foundation (NSF) International Postdoctoral Fellow at the 3D Optical Metrology Unit (3DOM) at the Bruno Kessler Foundation (FBK) in Trento, Italy.

Research and Current Projects

She uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 3D technologies to investigate how the accessibility, visibility, and acoustics of architecture communicated information and structured social experience in past societies. Her current interests involve geospatial machine learning, ground-based and aerial lidar scanning, photogrammetry, and virtual reality for cultural heritage. Since 2005, she has been working at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Copan, Honduras. Her interests also include using digital technology to enrich archaeological education and promote cultural heritage. She has also been involved in fieldwork at archaeological sites in Belize, Peru, Spain, and the U.S. Southwest. Her publications include articles on digital heritage, archaeological GIS, 3D WebGIS, and ancient landscape experience.

Currently, she directs the project “Machine Learning for Automated Detection of Ancient Maya Archaeological Sites in Lidar Data” to investigate using 3D point clouds to identify archaeological sites in tropical regions. She is also a co-director of the “El Rescate de Rosalila: 3D Scanning Project” to assist in conversations efforts of a one-of-a-kind Maya temple at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Copan, Honduras. She is also the Director of the MayaCityBuilder Project that created a procedural modeling kit and repository that stores a digital lexicon of 2D and 3D data for ancient Maya architecture and plants to allow users to create 3D visualizations in georeferenced cityscapes. 

Additionally, she directed the Keeping Data Alive (KDA) Project: Supporting reuse & repurposing of 3D data in the humanities. Funded by a Tier I Research and Development Grant from the Division of Preservation and Access, National Endowment for the Humanities. Tier I of KDA is building workflows and tools to help researchers track components in procedural models to support comparative studies and research on urbanization. 

She was also the co-director of the “Revitalizing and Enhancing the Open Source 3D WebGIS of MayaArch3D” funded by a NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant, Level 1. This ongoing project builds on the MayaArch3D Project (2009-2015) that she co-founded, which is an international, interdisciplinary project founded to explore the possibilities of 3D digital tools and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research on ancient Maya architecture and landscapes. The MayaArch3D Project has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, UNESCO, Gerta Henkel Foundation, National Science Foundation, and the German Ministry of Education and Research.


  • Digital Heritage Tools
  • Geospatial Approaches to Digital Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Ancient Mesoamerica
  • The Ancient Maya
  • GIS in Archaeology
  • Fundamentals of GIS
  • GIS and 3D Technologies for Archaeological Landscapes
  • Method and Theory in Archaeology

Selected Publications

Richards-Rissetto, H., D. Newton, and A. Al Zadjali. 2021. “A 3D point cloud deep learning approach using lidar to identify ancient Maya archaeological sites.ISPRS Annals of 28thCIPA Symposium, Beijing, China, Commission, XX, WG XX/YY.

Goodwin, G. and H. Richards-Rissetto. 2020. Modelling acoustics in ancient Maya cities: Moving towards synesthetic experience using GIS & 3D Simulation.” Digital Archaeologies, Material Worlds (Past and Present). Proceedings of the 45rd Annual Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology edited by J. Glover, J. Moss, and D. Rissolo, pp. 73-86. Tubingen University Press.

Richards-Rissetto, H. and K. Landau. 2019. Digitally-Mediated Practices of Geospatial Archaeological Data: Transformation, Integration, & Interpretation. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 2(1), pp.120–135. DOI:http://doi.org/10.5334/jcaa.30

Field, S., Heitman, C. and Richards-Rissetto, H., 2019. A Least Cost Analysis: Correlative Modeling of the Chaco Regional Road System. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 2(1), pp.136–150. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jcaa.36 

Galeazzi, F. and H. Richards-Rissetto (editors). 2018. “Web-based infrastructure as a collaborative framework across archaeological fieldwork, lab work, and analysis.” Journal of Field Archaeology 43(1) S1. Routledge: Taylor & Francis.

Galeazzi, F. and H. Richards-Rissetto. 2018.“Web-based Archaeology and Collaborative Research.”  Journal of Field Archaeology. 43(1) S1: S1-S8. doi.org/10.1080/00934690.2018.1512701

Juckette, C., H. Richards-Rissetto, H. Guerra Aldana, and N. Martinez. 2018. “Using Virtual Reality and Photogrammetry to Enrich 3D Object Identity.” Digital Heritage 3rd International Congress Proceedings, San Francisco, CA.

van der Elst, J., H. Richards-Rissetto, and L. Diaz-Kommenen. 2018. “Rural Sense: Value, Heritage, and Sensory Landscapes: Developing a Design-Oriented Approach to Mapping for Healthier Landscapes.” Landscape Review 18(1): 56-71

Richards-Rissetto,H. and J. von Schwerin. 2017.  A Catch 22 of 3D Data Sustainability: Lessons in 3D Archaeological Data Management & Accessibility.” Journal of Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage. 6: 38-48.  doi:10.1016/j.daach.2017.04.005.

Richards-Rissetto,H. 2017. What can GIS + 3D mean for Landscape Archaeology? Journal of Archaeological Science 84 (2017), pp. 10-21.  doi:10.1016/j.jas.2017.05.005 

Richards-Rissetto, H. 2017. An iterative 3DGIS Analysis of the Role of Visibility in Ancient Maya Landscapes: A Case Study from Copan, Honduras. Digital Scholarship Humanities 2017 fqx014. doi: 10.1093/llc/fqx014 

Richards-Rissetto, H., S. Sanford-Long, and J. Kirby-Miller. 2016. 3D Tool Evaluation and Workflow for an Ecological Approach to Visualizing Ancient Socio- Environmental Landscapes: A Case Study from Copan, Honduras. In Digital Methods and Remote Sensing in Archaeology: Archaeology in the Age of Sensing. Springer International Publishing. Series: Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. M. Forte and S. Campana (editors). DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-40658-9 

von Schwerin, J., H. Richards-Rissetto, F. Remondino, M. Grazia Spera, M. Auer, N. Billen, L. Loos, M. Reindel. 2016. Airborne LiDAR Acquisition, Post-Processing and Accuracy-Checking for a 3D WebGIS of Copan, Honduras. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports: Reports 5 (2016) 85-104.

Richards-Rissetto, H. and R. Plessing. 2015. Procedural modeling for ancient Maya cityscapes: Initial methodological challenges and solutions. Proceedings for Digital Heritage International Congress 2015, Granada, Spain, Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2015. 

Richards-Rissetto, H. and K. Landau. 2014.  Movement as a Means of Social Re(Production): Using GIS to Measure Social Integration in Urban Landscapes.Journal of Archaeological Science 41: 365-375.

von Schwerin, J. , H. Richards-Rissetto, F. Remondino, and G. Agugiaro. 2013. The MayaArch3D Project: A 3D WebGIS for Analyzing Ancient Maya Architecture and Landscapes at Copan, Honduras. Literary and Linguistic Computing 2013, doi: 10.1093/llc/fqt059. Oxford University Press.

Richards-Rissetto, H. 2013. From Mounds to Maps to Models: Visualizing Ancient Architecture across Landscapes. Proceedings of Digital Heritage International Congress,Marseille, France, Oct. 28-Nov.1, 2013.

Richards-Rissetto, H. , J. Robertsson, F. Remondino, G. Agugiaro, J. von Schwerin, and G. Galibri. 2013. Geospatial Virtual Heritage: An Interactive, Gesture-based 3D GIS to Engage the Public with Ancient Maya Archaeology. Proceedings of Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, Southampton, United Kingdom, March 26-29. 

Richards-Rissetto,H.,  J. Robertsson, F. Remondino, G. Agugiaro, J. von Schwerin, and G. Galibri. 2012. Kinect and 3D GIS in Archaeology. Proceedings of 18th Int. Virtual Systems and MultiMedia Conference, 2-5 Sept. 2012, Milan, Italy.

Richards-Rissetto, H. 2012. Studying Social Interaction at the Ancient Maya Site of Copán, Honduras: A Least Cost Approach to Configurational Analysis.  In Least Cost Analysis of Social Landscapes: Archaeological Case Studies editors Devin A. White and Sarah Surface-Evans, pp. 194-231. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City.

W.H. Wills, F. Scott Worman, W. Dorshow, and H. Richards-Rissetto. 2012. Shabik’eschee Village in Chaco Canyon: Beyond the ArchetypeAmerican Antiquity 77(2): 326-350.

van der Elst, J., H. Richards-Rissetto, and J. Garcia. 2011. Creating Digital Heritage Content: Bridging Communities and Mediating Perspectives. In Digital Culture   and   E-Tourism: Technologies, Applications and Management Approaches, pp. 139-157, edited by M. Lytras, P.  Ordonez De Pablos E. Damiani, and L. Diaz. Information Science Reference (IGI Global Publishing): Hershey and New York.


  • Ph.D. University of New Mexico, Ph.D. with Distinction, Anthropology (2010)
  • M.A. University of New Mexico, M.A., Anthropology
  • B.A. University of Southern Maine, B.A., Anthropology and Geography

Research Interests


Faculty Fellow, CDRH

Academia.edu Profile

Curriculum Vitae