For centuries, the common way of finding archaeological sites was to prospect for possible signs of early settlements and then proceed to dig and hope for the best. Thankfully, a revolutionary tool called LiDAR has made this prospecting job a much easier task, by mapping the ground and reveal structures and objects that would have otherwise remained invisible.
A 3D LiDAR map of the Maya site of Caracol in Belize
Before and After
(copyright of both images: A&D Chase)
Used in the 70s by the US army for space exploration, LiDAR’s technology is based on laser sensors shining from the air to the ground, emitting a pulsation of light that is then reflected back and measured. The data gathered by the pulses are then computerised and used to build a 3D map of a geographical zone. This method has led to amazing discoveries such as a lost Mayan city in 2010.
Although this new technology has its flaws: it doesn’t work underground or through densely wooded areas, it remains a major advancement and an incredible tool for the archaeology of today and tomorrow.
(via National Geographic)