15 May 2012

LiDAR imaging of prehistoric earthworks

LiDAR is the acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, a powerful technology that uses laser light for mapping and analysis.  At the top is a LiDAR aerial image of the Marching Bear Group of earthworks at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa.  Below is a more conventional depiction of one of the bear effigy mounds, using standard photography and outlining the earthwork with limestone.

The National Park Service website has an article comparing "traditional mapping" (surveying and sketching) vs. aerial photography (embed right, which also shows an eagle mound and the tip of a linear mound at the edge of the bear mound group) vs. LiDAR.  I've also seen effective imaging produced by taking an extended-exposure photo at dusk, while having knowledgeable people walk around mounds with flashlights to "paint" the features with light.

For those with an interest in this LiDAR as an archaeological tool, the best article I've seen was posted by the Ohio Archaeological Council; it discusses the value of LiDAR in studying some of the Hopewell Mounds in Ohio.

A couple months ago an article at The Guardian explained how LiDAR could be used to map the Amazon forests in incredible detail.

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