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LIDAR Maps Mayan City In 4 Days!

May 12, 2010

Another Laser related research update! A new modified LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) method (swath mapping) was used to map one of the largest cities of ancient Mayan city, Caracol, covered under thick tropical forest. The same job would have taken 20-25 years of surveying by traditional ground based techniques, LIDAR did the job in 4 days!!

In only four days, a twin-engine aircraft equipped with an advanced version of lidar (light detection and ranging) flew back and forth over the jungle and collected data surpassing the results of two and a half decades of on-the-ground mapping, the archaeologists said. After three weeks of laboratory processing, the almost 10 hours of laser measurements showed topographic detail over an area of 80 square miles, notably settlement patterns of grand architecture and modest house mounds, roadways and agricultural terraces. [NY Times]

The NASA technology aboard the Cessna saw beyond the rainforest and detected thousands of new structures, 11 new causeways, tens of thousands of agricultural terraces and many hidden caves – results beyond anyone’s imagination. The data also confirm the size of the city (spread over 177 square kilometers or 68 square miles) and corroborate the Chases’ previous estimates for the size of the population (at least 115,000 people in A.D. 650).[UCF Newsroom]

“It’s very exciting,” said Arlen Chase. “The images not only reveal topography and built features, but also demonstrate the integration of residential groups, monumental architecture, roadways and agricultural terraces, vividly illustrating a complete communication, transportation and subsistence system.”[UCF Newsroom]

You can read the full story at New York Times. The research is collaboration between University of Central Florida, NASA and University of Florida. My friend, Pravesh, works in Univ of Florida LIDAR lab and probably she will be able to provide more input about these results.

Source: NY Times, UCF Newsroom, Flickr: AJ Baxter

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