Monday, October 6, 2014
LiDAR, a remote sensing technique capable of penetrating vegetation, is creating a shift in archaeology that promises transform research in forested areas worldwide. Exploring Solutions Past recently received a gift of LiDAR imagery covering the 20 sq km El Pilar Archaeological Reserve in Belize and Guatemala. High-resolution data were gathered on the forest canopy and ground surface in a “point cloud.” We have identified elements using a new algorithm with superior LiDAR processing results for cultural features, such as temples and plazas. We are field-validating features to devise a protocol for the production of a topographic and cultural map of El Pilar. Unusual features have been detected: a “citadel” and a sunken plaza connecting the offset causeways—neither feature ever recorded before. These discoveries change our understanding of ancient Maya land use and the city of El Pilar, but their existence and scope can only be proven by field validation. Our results from the field set the stage for developing a discovery strategy to confirm the nature of features illuminated in LiDAR imagery. Our success is the evolving map of El Pilar.