Kamukuwaka: Recreating an Ancient Cultural Site with 3D Printing

Using cutting-edge 3D printing technologies to create a digital restoration of vandalised rock carvings in the sacred cave of Kamukuwaká.

Indigenous Exchange and Climate Action

Project Overview

The sacred cave of Kamukuwaká – an archaeological site sacred to the Wauja and 15 other communities living in the Xingu Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon – was listed as a heritage site in 2010 by IPHAN (Brazil’s National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage).

As part of our The Challenge of the Xingu project, an expedition to the site in September 2018 – organised with members of the Wauja community, specialists from Factum Foundation and an independent team of Brazilian anthropologists – found its ancient petroglyphs had been systematically destroyed: chisel marks, a chipped surface and scattered fragments on the ground were all that was left. The destruction was likely to be a result of ongoing tensions between Indigenous and farming communities in the state of Mato Grosso. You can read more about this on BBC News (in Portuguese).

In defiance of this tragedy, Factum Foundation’s team employed high-resolution photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning to record the cave. Then, using cutting-edge 3D printing technologies and with reference to previous photographic documentation, as well as the collective memory of the Wauja, a forensically accurate digital restoration of the rock carvings was carried out, resulting in a 1:1 facsimile of the entrance to the cave with all the petroglyphs, measuring 8x4x4m.

On the 18th and 19th of October 2019, one year after the vandalism was discovered, Factum hosted a two-day event in their Madrid workshop to inaugurate the facsimile of the restored cave. It was unveiled by a leader of the Wauja community, Akari Waurá, oral historian and song carrier, and his son Yanamakakuma Waurá, alongside Takumã Kuikuro, a filmmaker from the Kuikuro people, and Shirley Djukuma Krenak, leader of the Krenak people. During the event, they explained the importance of the cave and its meaning for the preservation of Indigenous cultures and discussed ways in which the facsimile of the cave can best serve the Indigenous communities in Brazil.