Angkor Revealed through Laser Pulses

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*

Link: Angkor’s Sprawling Cityscapes Revealed

Evans’ paper (PDF): Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar

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  1. Not to nitpick but
    Typo I think… That $250 millions, I think should be Cambodian Riel, not dollars. At 4000:1 it would be 62,500 $US which is about the going rate. I was project manager for a mining company and got LIDAR done on twice the area involved here and it set us back 85,000 $US. If the project costs was really $250 millions, someone got himself a brand new fleet of 80 all equipped Eurocopters and a lot of rich scientists… 😉

    Anywho, beautiful place that Angkor Wat, visited twice, there’s a sense of awe about it, Well worth for anyone to put on their “things to see before I kick the bucket” list.

    1. Bucket list
      Man, that bucket is getting bigger & bigger 😉

      Thanks for pointing that out. I did copy/paste that paragraph from the Discover article. Maybe we should let them know of their little SNAFU 😛

      1. My son is about to finish his
        My son is about to finish his masters degree in cartography and is having a lot of fun with LIDAR data. My best friend’s brother was a part of the early development of the LIDAR systems used to track air turbulence for airports.
        There are some exciting offshoots of LIDAR including ultra-deep ecological analysis.

        1. Cartography
          Oh that sounds exciting! Has he looked into some areas where undiscovered archeological remains might be located? I get the impression the United States landscape has yet a lot of surprises to give –like Cahokia, for example 🙂

          1. He doesn’t get to do such fun
            He doesn’t get to do such fun stuff as a student but hopes to be hired by an archaeological outfit. I think they all hope that since it is so sexy now.

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