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LiDAR Scanning Technology Helps Archaeologists Uncover Forgotten Cities

Picture of Anne Freier
by Anne Freier
Feb 19, 2018

LiDAR scanning technology offers tremendous potential to help archaeologists discover lost cities across the world.

Archaeologists are able to speed up their process of discovery and exploration using a high-tech laser technique originally developed to scan the surface of the moon.

The technology is based on light detection and ranging scanning (LiDAR) and was created in 1970. It uses a combination of aerial light pulses as well as GPS to create a 3D map of what lies beneath.

The surveying method basically measures the distance to a target by illuminating it. It then measures the reflected pulse via a sensor. A wide variety of areas including geography, geology, seismology and geomatics are already using the LiDAR technology.

This has led to some major discoveries, including the Mexican city of Angamuco. Although archeologists had been aware of its existence, the city had been covered in layers of lava making it harder to spot. There was no way of knowing how dense the city was.

LiDAR used to build 3D models. (Image: Wikipedia)

Discovering the city of Angamuco and others with LiDAR

According to Chris Fisher, an archeologist at Colorado State University, uncovering Angamuco has been a true achievement. Using LiDAR, the team noticed that the city extended over 26 km2.

“That is a huge area with a lot of people and a lot of architectural foundations that are represented,” Fisher explained.

“If you do the maths, all of a sudden you are talking about 40,000 building foundations up there, which is the same number of building foundations that are on the island of Manhattan.”

He recently presented his findings at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting. Here, he discussed how LiDAR was used to uncover the ruins of yet another city in Honduras.

Using the technology, the team has now verified over 7,000 architecture features spanning an area of 4 km2.

Although archeologists are still having to do the dirty work, LiDAR offers tremendous future potential.

“Everywhere you point the LiDAR instrument, you find new stuff, and that is because we know so little about the archaeological universe in the Americas right now. Right now every textbook has to be rewritten, and two years from now going to have to be rewritten again,” Fisher says.

Source: The Guardian

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License: The text of "LiDAR Scanning Technology Helps Archaeologists Uncover Forgotten Cities" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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