How LiDAR Technology Can Help the Archaeology Industry

LiDAR & Archaeology: New Frontiers with Clearer Mapping

Using LiDAR for archaeology is creating new opportunities for powerful discoveries of ancient human societies, at previously unattainable details and depth of analysis. As building remnants and other artefacts were once nearly undiscoverable thanks to the effects of vegetation and tree overgrowth, archaeologists are now benefiting from detailed imaging and mapping that create broader detail than ever cataloged before.

How Does LiDAR Work?

LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing laser technology which is utilized to generate high-resolution elevation models of geographic areas. The LiDAR sensor, attached to either a tripod, drone, helicopter or airplane, is flown over an area for scanning and employs an array of pulsing lasers which are shot downwards to the Earth’s surface. These lasers hitting the surface create data points, once combined with inertial measurement unit (IMU) and GPS data, a detailed point cloud is generated, then subsequent 3D models can be extrapolated.

The clear and detailed picture that’s created is highly useful in places where archaeologists commonly search for ancient human ruins, places where it can be very difficult for the naked eye to survey and discover unique objects and forms.

The canopy of a rainforest, for example, offered many challenges in the past to archaeologists as land with high foliage density makes it difficult to map the elevation and terrain with accuracy, and can take years to do. This can also be said for other highly vegetated or forested places around the globe. In such areas, LiDAR is the best solution as techniques like photogrammetry generally cannot provide worthwhile data as not enough information can be obtained about the ground underneath the forest canopy.

The Benefits of LiDAR for Archaeology in More Detail

  • The mapping task itself can be done quite quickly. A standard drone operation field team can scan about 600 acres of land a day. That allows archaeologists to gain access to data quicker while still enjoying more detailed insight.
  • It’s an affordable way to acquire topographical data if you use LiDAR services from an experienced and professional team.
  • Mapping clarity helps archaeologists even find previously unseen objects or structures in archaeological sites that have already been combed over.
  • When compared to an archaeological excavation, creating DEM with LiDAR is faster and less costly.

Specific Examples of LiDAR in Archaeology

Here are some excellent examples of how researchers have benefitted from LiDAR technology across the globe:

Archaeologists have successfully used LiDAR to locate ancient features like roads and buildings from the Mayan civilization. In Belize, LiDAR was utilized to learn more about a Mayan settlement by generating a clear 3D map.

In Florence, Italy, a Renaissance palace known as the Salone dei Cinquecento, has even been the subject of LiDAR scanning, with a possible Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece discovery behind a 16th Century mural.

Previously undiscovered sites surrounding the Stonehenge area in England have also been found by teams employing cutting edge LiDAR technology.

In the U.S. LiDAR has helped researchers make more discoveries in the New England area. Heavy forests cover quite a bit of present day New England, making it a real challenge for archaeologists to paint a clear and accurate picture of the region’s appearance during the early colonial period. Homes, roads, and farm walls dotted the landscape of this region in the 1700s and LiDAR now gives researchers a clearer illustration of life here in the past.

Contact Us for LiDAR Services on Your Next Archaeology Project

Please call 1 (888) 837-0940 or fill out the contact form when you need clear, detailed and powerful data for archaeology. Our geospatial professionals and large network of professional pilots are ready to assist you across the nation with LiDAR services and more!


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Please note that we are currently unable to assist in the search for missing pets. This limitation is due to the specific challenges and regulations associated with using drones for such purposes.