Reanalyzing environmental lidar data for archaeology: Mesoamerican applications and implications

Charles Golden, Timothy Murtha, Bruce Cook, Derek S. Shaffer, Whittaker Schroder, Elijah J. Hermitt, Omar Alcover Firpi, Andrew K. Scherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This paper presents a preliminary archaeological assessment of extensive transects of lidar recently collected by environmental scientists over southern Mexico using the G-LiHT system of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. In particular, this article offers the results of a first phase of research, consisting of: 1) characterization and classification of the cultural and ecological context of the samples, and 2) bare earth processing and visual inspection of a sample of the flight paths for identification of probable anthropogenic Precolumbian features. These initial results demonstrate that significant contributions to understanding variations in Precolumbian land-use and settlement patterns and change is possible with truly multi-regional lidar surveys not originally captured for archaeological prospection. We point to future directions for the development of archaeological applications of this robust data set. Finally, we offer the potential for enriching archaeological research through tightly coupled collaborations with environmental science and monitoring. Archaeologists in the neotropics can acquire more data, better realize the full potential of lidar surveys, and better contribute to interdisciplinary studies of human-environmental dynamic systems through regionally focused and collaborative scientific research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-308
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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