More than 1,000 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans (also called Anasazi and Hisatsinom by the Hopi) who had thrived in the Moapa Valley area for centuries, gradually abandoned their homes and vanished into the sizzling, arid expanses southeast of Nevada.

For hundreds of years before migrating they lived in a vast, sprawling village stretching for miles along the Muddy River that first archeological excavators called Pueblo Grande de Nevada and, eventually, the Lost City.

Mountain man and explorer Jedediah Smith found the first evidence of the Lost City in 1827 and nearly 100 years later, in 1924, modern day archeologists began digs that would ultimately uncover artifacts and relics that identified and defined the Ancestral Puebloans culture.

Many of those artifacts are on display in Overton’s Lost City Museum and this week the facility expanded access to its collections using three-dimensional, virtual reality, according to Guy Clifton, Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Those images are now available for public viewing at

“(The purpose of the 3-D imaging is to) increase public awareness and engagement with our museum collections,” said Mary Beth Timm, Lost City museum curator and archeologist.

UNLV doctoral student Ben Van Alstyne and undergraduates Alexx Martinez and Michelle Bosinger-Shannon, spearheaded the project this spring in a partnership with the Department of Anthropology at UNLV.

Timm explained that the pilot project to determine which pieces were most suitable for virtual reality actually started in the fall 2017.

“He sought us out because of our extensive archeological collections,” Timm said. “There is no other place like this in the U.S.,”

Ultimately the decision was made to concentrate the virtual reality project on ceramics and the digitization effort focused on bowls, canteens, jars and cooking pots. The project ultimately consists of three tasks.

“The first thing is to take pictures of the object from all angles,” Timm said. “Then the pictures are rendered in the computer to tie them all together and then they’re annotated for particular points.”

“Users can click the numbered annotations to read labels on each model,” Clifton said in a news release. “Objects are labeled with interesting facts such as how they were made, decorated and the time period when they were used.”

With the help of Virtual Reality, the museum experience of the visitors is enhanced. Especially, with the help of full immersion that the Virtual Reality provides, the feeling of presence (a field that is studied by the Thematic Area 4 of the ViMM project, along with the storytelling and gamification fields) increases, something that provides a more interesting and realistic virtual experience for the people.