Detection of Maya Ruins by LiDAR: Applications, Case Studies, and issues

Arlen Chase, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Diane Z. Chase, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


The study of ancient Mesoamerican landscapes and settlement has been significantly impacted in a positive way through the application of LiDAR (light detection and ranging). LiDAR has permitted the recovery of ground data from huge regional areas that are currently under a tropical canopy: the use of traditional methods of survey and mapping could never have resulted in the detailed data that are available through LiDAR. The analyses of LiDAR data are a conjunctive task that involves archaeologists with physicists and computer scientists. This interdisciplinary effort is producing new results and interpretations for all fields, but has also raised issues that need resolution, particularly involving data storage and distribution. LiDAR has already transformed the way in which Mesoamerican settlement survey is done, and future collection of LiDAR data will benefit Mesoamerica through helping to preserve a landscape of the past.