Indiana Jones meets Han Solo (oh wait): In 2012, a team of archeologists lead by Dr. Damian Evans used an helicopter equipped with a LIDAR system, to reveal the magnificence of Angkor Wat’s architecture, buried beneath the dense jungle foliage for the last 6 centuries. Their work has uncovered roads, canals, ponds, field walls, occupation mounds, and other never-before-seen structures of the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
Before the arrival of airborne laser scanning technology known as lidar (for light detection and ranging), archaeologists working in Angkor had to hack through thick jungle or painstakingly analyze aerial photos and satellite images — essentially guessing at what was beneath the dense canopy. Lidar has revolutionized tropical archaeology in Mesoamerica in recent years, but this is the first time the technique has been used in Asia. “Almost within minutes of receiving the data, we clicked a few buttons, and millions of data points coalesced into cities in front of us,” says Damian Evans of the University of Sydney, Australia, who spearheaded the $250 million lidar mission. “We were all a little bit speechless.”
There’s been recent attempts to employ LIDAR in the detection & study of historic shipwrecks. Let’s hope the technology becomes more widespread, so that it can be used in the discovery of ruins so ancient, by now they are situated beneath sea level *cough*Atlantis*cough*
Evans’ paper (PDF): Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar
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