Airborne LiDAR, archaeology, and the ancient Maya landscape at Caracol, Belize
Abbreviated Journal Title
J. Archaeol. Sci.
LiDAR; Landscape archaeology; Rainforest canopy; Maya; Belize; Tropics; LOWLAND MAYA; TROPICAL FOREST; CANOPY; PATTERNS; FEATURES; CITIES; GROWTH; STATES; TIKAL; Anthropology; Archaeology; Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Advances in remote sensing and space-based imaging have led to an increased understanding of past settlements and landscape use, but until now the images in tropical regions have not been detailed enough to provide datasets that permitted the computation of digital elevation models for heavily forested and hilly terrain. The application of airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) remote sensing provides a detailed raster image that mimics a 3-D view (technically, it is 2.5-D) of a 200 sq km area covering the settlement of Caracol, a long-term occupied (600 BC-A.D. 250-900) Maya archaeological site in Belize, literally "seeing" though gaps in the rainforest canopy. Penetrating the encompassing jungle, LiDAR-derived images accurately portray not only the topography of the landscape, but also, structures, causeways, and agricultural terraces even those with relatively low relief of 5-30 cm. These data demonstrate the ability of the ancient Maya to modify, radically, their landscape in order to create a sustainable urban environment. Given the time and intensive effort involved in producing traditional large-scale maps, swath mapping LiDAR is a powerful cost-efficient tool to analyze past settlement and landscape modifications in tropical regions as it covers large study areas in a relatively short time. The use of LiDAR technology, as illustrated here, will ultimately replace traditional settlement mapping in tropical rainforest environments, such as the Maya region, although ground verification will continue to be necessary to test its efficacy. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Archaeological Science
"Airborne LiDAR, archaeology, and the ancient Maya landscape at Caracol, Belize" (2011). Faculty Bibliography 2010s. 1152.