China Lake 3D Petroglyph Mapping

China Lake 3D Petroglyph Mapping

Chronicle Heritage has been contracted to the Department of Defense since 2009. We are part of a Native American-owned 8(a) partnership that makes contracting that much simpler.

We’ve completed U.S. Army Installation Management Command IDIQ across the United States. We have also undertaken cultural resource management projects at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Irwin, California; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Chronicle Heritage, operating at the time as PaleoWest, possesses aerial mapping and 3D modeling capabilities and was tapped by the Department of the Navy to begin creating a digital record of North America’s largest array of prehistoric rock art, managed by China Lake Naval Weapons Station in California.

Aerial photography with unmanned aerial systems (UASs), 3D modeling through photogrammetry, and the development of virtual reality environments are methods that are taking root within the discipline of archaeology. Developments in hardware and software over the past several years have led greater numbers of firms to adopt these methods with more diverse applications. Our experts used these methods to document one of the densest concentrations of rock art in the New World.

Little Petroglyph Canyon is part of the Coso Rock Art District, a National Historic Landmark on the Naval Air Weapons Station base in China Lake, California. 3D modeling using photogrammetry provides a baseline for the development of a GIS-based condition assessment database to be used by archaeologists working on the base, as well as the baseline for two virtual reality outreach tools for external use cases.  

Additional Information


Department of the Navy


China Lake, California


  • Federal Government
  • Tribal


  • Cultural Landscape
  • Technology Solutions

Results at a Glance

  • Employing UAVs and pole-mounted data collection, Chronicle Heritage created the world’s most extensive 3D digital model of prehistoric rock art, allowing the Navy to effectively manage its invaluable resource and share it with researchers and descendant tribes even as military operations at the base close it off to civilian access.

The petroglyphs are carved into the rocks, and range in age from Paleoindian times to the present, with some as old as 12,000 years. Imagery ranges from sheep, lizards, mountain lions and snakes, to people, ceremonial objects, rain, fire, and abstract patterns representing the cosmos.

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