In recent years LIDAR equipped drones and airplanes have helped to make a number of discoveries as it allows archaeologists to ‘see’ through dense vegetation and find ruins of old civilizations such as the Maya’s in Mexico

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Maya ruins mapped with LIDAR equipped drones and airplanes

Zach Zorich writes for the NYT that:

Until recently, archaeology was limited by what a researcher could see while standing on the ground. But light detection and ranging, or lidar, technology has transformed the field, providing a way to scan entire regions for archaeological sites.

With an array of airborne lasers, researchers can peer down through dense forest canopies or pick out the shapes of ancient buildings to discover and map ancient sites across thousands of square miles. A process that once required decades-long mapping expeditions, and slogging through jungles with surveying equipment, can now be done in a matter of days from the relative comfort of an airplane.

Dr. Golden has used a drone-based lidar system to get more detailed images of these sites. Drones can’t cover as much territory as planes, but they can be easily redirected if something interesting unexpectedly comes to light.

“The word that all of us used when we started looking at the lidar was ‘humbling,’” he said. “It humbled all of us in showing us what we had missed.”

“The future pattern,” Dr. Inomata said, “will be that everything will be covered by lidar, like topographic maps today.”

You can read the entire article here [paywall].

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