Around the World in 80 Models: Hargeisa

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Hop on board as we continue our journey Around the World in 80 Models! We began our itinerary at Sketchfab headquarters in New York and are working our way through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, and North America. To catch up on past destinations, check out the rest of the Around the World in 80 Models series.

Our tour of Africa’s rock art continues! This week we meet up with CyArk in Somaliland, where they show us the area’s oldest known rock art and tell us what we can learn from it.

Hargeisa, Somaliland: Laas Geel

The rate of heritage loss around the world is staggering and accelerating. From rising sea levels to the tragic spike in intentional destruction, our common heritage is under threat. We cannot physically preserve every site around the world, but with reality capture technologies, we can digitally preserve a vast number of them and provide virtual access for the generations of today and tomorrow.

CyArk is a nonprofit organization based in California with the mission to capture, archive and share the world’s cultural heritage before it is lost to natural disaster, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time. The organization has archived over 200 sites spanning 43 countries and all seven continents with an eye towards their perpetual preservation.

CyArk has released a number of models through the sketchfab platform and will continue to add new sites and experiences throughout 2016 and beyond. And, if you have a google cardboard you can even view CyArk’s models in Sketchfab’s native VR just by clicking the VR button!

One such site available to explore is the complex cave and rock shelter of Laas Geel which lies just 30-45 minutes outside of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared republic and autonomous region of Somalia. Exhibiting outstanding Neolithic rock art, the sites’ polychrome cave paintings are considered to be some of the best preserved rock paintings in all of Africa, and are essential to the Horn of Africa’s historical and heritage legacy. These rock art sites are endangered from a number of factors, both natural and human caused.

The sites of Laas Geel and nearby Dhagah Kureh (not pictured) inform us about the earliest pastoralists in the Horn of Africa and agricultural societies 5,000 years ago. These sites reveal that between the third and second millennia BC, the herding of humpless cows, sheep and goats, as well as the hunting of antelopes, giraffes, and other wild animals, was the basis for economic subsistence, suggesting a much greener environment than today.

CyArk documented the site in September of 2013 in partnership with the Government of Switzerland, the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and The Horn Heritage Charity and has developed 3D models as well as a virtual tour of the site you can access through their website.

This model was created from terrestrial LiDAR data which is CyArk’s prefered tool when working in spaces with complex surface geometry like a cave system. For this type of data, CyArk uses a meshing process to create its models, which essentially connects the individual data points by using them as intersections for a triangulated network. Unlike traditional modeling, this preserves the site’s true geometry and surface texture rather than simplifying it into regular shapes. A further illusion of texture is added by mapping photographs onto the model which provides both color as well as light and shadow. Mesh modeling yields an object with between 2-3 mm of accuracy.

This was one of CyArk’s earlier mesh models and served as a sort of testing ground for their internal workflows. At the time of the project, the team would plan to spend two days processing and working with the data in their offices for every day spent in the field.

To see more of CyArk’s models here on Sketchfab, check out their profile!

About the author


Abby & Néstor

Abby and Néstor are Sketchfab Masters.
Abby Crawford, Ph.D. is trained in and passionate about Roman Archaeology and works as a freelance artifact illustrator and 3D scanner in California.
Néstor F. Marqués is a virtual Heritage & cultural diffusion researcher, and an enthusiast of ancient Rome’s culture.

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