Lidar enables discovery of Mayan ruins

February 13th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Teledyne Optech’s Titan sensor was used by the University of Houston’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) to reveal extensive Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Lidar technology was able to identify hundreds of previously unknown structures, including raised highways, and complex irrigation and terracing systems. After the collapse of the Mayan civilisation, their cities and monuments were quickly covered by thick rainforest, hiding the ancient civilisation from airborne observation and making it very difficult to survey on foot.

Flying high above the rainforest, the company’s lasers penetrated the canopy to collect almost a million data points per second from the forest floor, giving archaeologists a “bare earth” view of the structures underneath. Having rapidly covered 2100 km2, the data revealed large amounts of ruins hidden below the forest, showing that their urban centres were significantly larger than archaeologists had previously thought. The Optech Titan multispectral lidar sensor incorporates three independent laser wavelengths into a single sensor design (i.e. beams at 532, 1064, and 1550 nm (0.5/1.0/1.5 microns). Since it uses both green and infrared channels, it is capable of simultaneous water depth mapping and high-precision 900 kHz topography.

Contact Wayne Szameitat, Teledyne Optech,

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