Archaeology involves the discovery of ancient human civilizations through analysis of artefacts collected. The depth of analysis has become far reaching as details have emerged that were once undiscoverable. Archaeologists now have the ability to utilize drones with LiDAR technology to cover large areas that might be covered with vegetation to identify remnants of buildings. There have been a number of civilizations that were hidden in heavy vegetation that could have easily been seen from an aerial perspective. Archaeologists are embracing this technology as it truly has changed the archaeology industry. The mapping process has also become far more efficient when compared to traditional mapping techniques.
What is LiDAR and How Does It Work?
LiDAR is also known as light detection and ranging. This is a remote sensing technology that can map highly vegetated geographic areas, producing highly accurate data. Pulsating lasers are directed down to the ground’s surface which then create data points. This is then combined with GPS and IMU, creating a point cloud. While the sensor can be attached to various types of aircraft, drones are the most cost effective option.
The detailed images that LiDAR creates can help archaeologists identify objects and ruins. Additionally, there are certain elevations or areas that are difficult to access that a drone can collect data on.
The rainforest poses a number of challenges and is a great example of assisting archaeologists. Mapping can take years due to terrain and elevation when combined with the heavy vegetation. LiDAR can collect data, even over an area with heavy vegetation.
Benefits for Archaeological Studies
A team of drone pilots can easily map 700 acres of land a day according to FlyGuys. The affordability of the collection of data is important as the time saved will result in labor costs decreasing. Mapping clarity has allowed archaeologists to find structures that previously were impossible to see. A number of these discoveries were in areas that had previously been studied by archaeologists.
Real Examples of LiDAR Assisting in Discoveries
Archaeological professionals have used LiDAR technology to map roads throughout areas where the Mayans were located. Central America had a heavy Mayan population and archaeologists could understand the civilization in a deeper manner through clear 3D maps.
Florence, Italy is rich with history and a palace from the Renaissance named the Salone dei Cinquecento has been scanned by LiDAR. They potentially uncovered a Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece behind a mural from the 16th century.
The United States has used LiDAR to make a plethora of discoveries in the New England area. The heavy forests of the region make it difficult to get a clear image of the colonial look of the area hundreds of years ago. LiDAR has allowed roads, farm structures, and even homes to be mapped. The clear illustration of the past can help paint a much clearer picture of what life was like at the time.