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LiDAR technology: a revolution in archaeology

What did past civilizations leave behind? For archaeologists, that question can be hard to answer. Luckily, LiDAR technology has helped archaeologists find ancient sites and transform how researchers approach unsurveyed land. LiDAR has become one of archaeology’s most exciting modern tools. It has made it possible to measure, and map objects and structures that might otherwise remain hidden under old walls and foundations in trees, vegetation, water, soil, and more.

The benefits of LiDAR for archaeology 

Archaeologists are now benefiting from detailed imaging and mapping that create broader detail than before. With LiDAR, the mapping task itself can be done quite quickly and in return, archaeologists can also gain faster access. In a day, a standard drone operation field team can scan about 600 acres of land. Using LiDAR services from an experienced and professional team is also an affordable way to acquire topographical data. Another benefit is that creating DEM with LiDAR is faster and less costly when compared to an archaeological excavation.

Archaeology revolution

In the early 2010s, archaeologists looking for hard-to-find Mayan sites were astonished when LiDAR revealed a lost Maya city. Later on, researchers used LiDAR to spot more than 20,000 archaeological features in Mexico that actually had been home to an ancient city. LiDAR is even being used on the ground to map structures like Italy’s Salone del Cinquecento and Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. 

How researchers have benefitted from LiDAR technology across the globe

Archaeologists have successfully used LiDAR in Belize, to learn more about a Mayan settlement by generating a clear 3D map. Undiscovered sites surrounding the Stonehenge area in England have been found by teams using cutting-edge LiDAR technology. In the U.S. LiDAR has helped archaeologists in the New England area paint a clear and accurate picture of the region’s appearance during the early colonial period. 

LiDAR technology was invented for military use. Despite this, It was first applied widely by meteorologists intent on studying clouds. Today, LiDAR is an important tool for archaeological research and findings. But what makes LiDAR so incredible in archeology is that it doesn’t just reveal what is hidden, it also documents what has already been found.

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