|23 March 2008
Aerial scanning reveals details of ancient sites
New technologies seem to make almost everyone's job easier, and archaeology is no exception. One of the newest and most exciting tools in the archaeologist's kit is aerial laser scanning, sometimes referred to as Light Detection And Ranging, or LiDAR. It works a bit like radar, but instead of using radio waves, it uses infrared laser pulses. The echoes can 'see' through trees and shrubs, revealing the precise contours of the ground surface.
In the April issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, University of Vienna archaeologist Michael Doneus and colleagues report the results of a LiDAR survey of the Iron Age hill fort of Purbach in eastern Austria. They were able to map the earthwork in stunning detail, including shallow depressions caused by looting. They even found the remains of mounds less than 8 inches tall that "had been missed by the original trained surveyors in the field."
In Ohio, archaeologists William Romain and Jarrod Burks, with the support of Ohio State University's Newark Earthworks Center, are using LiDAR to study the remnants of the Newark Earthworks. In two reports published online, they describe the earthworks and their topographic situation in unprecedented detail, permitting insights into how the earthworks and natural features combined to create a sacred landscape. Also, Romain and Burks sought and discovered remnants of the so-called "Great Hopewell Road," which consisted of parallel walls of earth extending from Newark's Octagon Earthworks an undetermined distance to the southwest. LiDAR data revealed the walls had been built by removing earth from the road's surface and piling it up on either side. They conclude their paper with the observation that "although much of the Native American past has been built over and lost, much remains to be discovered." You can read the papers by Romain and Burks at www.ohioarchaeology.org/joomla/.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch (18 March 2008)
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