Research, Application, and Innovation of LiDAR Technology in Spatial Archeology

Research, Application, and Innovation of LiDAR Technology in Spatial Archeology

Carolina Collaro, Martin Herkommer
Copyright: © 2025 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7366-5.ch054
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Two universities, the University of Jaén, Spain and the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, in partnership with Quantum Systems GmbH, a German company, conducted an expedition to the Maya Tropical Forest in the Yaxhà-Nakum-Naranjo National Park of El Petén (El Triangulo Cultural), Guatemala, using LiDAR technology. The article takes its cue from the description of this case study and focuses on the application of LiDAR technology to fixed-wing VTOL drones beyond the pilot's line of sight. The context presents significant challenges due to the impenetrability and vegetation of the forest, which protects Maya archaeology but is also a major degradation factor. The authors analyzed the benefits and challenges of using LiDAR for spatial archaeology and concerning the new frontiers of digitization.
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Background: Lidar Utilization

In many countries, LiDAR data topography is already available on the web (Kissling et al., 2022; Organismo Autónomo Centro Nacional de Información Geográfica, n.d.); in others, it is available on request, so that a significant part of the world is openly accessible. The main reason for this choice by governments is the need to make accurate topographic data accessible to non-experts in the public and private sectors. There are also economic reasons; LiDAR is cheaper for surveyors than traditional surveying methods, especially in the environmental and planning sectors. On the other hand, there is a need for updated information (Calculadora Geodésica Online, n.d.; IGN. (n.d.) and monitoring of the areas that have been surveyed and mapped. In some countries, such as Scotland (Banaszek et al., 2018) and England, the evaluation of national archaeological data in their specific field and for management purposes is of the utmost importance and is described especially in relation to airborne lidar datasets (Historic England, 2023). This is because the UK has a long tradition of collecting and archiving archaeological data (i.e.: The Historic England Archive). One of the obvious features is the multidisciplinarity that LiDAR technology invests in, not just in management. It invests in archaeology and cultural heritage research in general, but with implications and connections to many other sectors: from the technical sectors of photogrammetry and remote sensing (Storch et al., 2022; Stylianidis, 2020), to the humanistic ones of digital heritage (Using TDAR, 2020) and virtual reality innovation, to the application of environmental-ecological models (Kellett & Jones, 2016). All these sectors will increasingly take advantage of LiDAR technology (Shan & Toth, 2017). There is a growing body of literature, mainly in the form of case studies as best practice examples. The authors report some references to their case study on Maya archaeological landscape (Canuto et al., 2018, 2021; Fialko, 2000; Ford &Clarke, 2015; Larmon, et al., 2022; Richards-Rissetto et al., 2021). In this paper, the authors describe the interrelationships and the relative implications, challenges, and benefits of LiDAR technology as it is applied to spatial archaeology.

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