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The use of Lidar technology in archaeology: A revolution in the study of the past

The use of Lidar technology in archaeology: A revolution in the study of the past


Archaeology has always been a discipline that combines science with art, interpreting clues left by our ancestors. Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) technology has opened up new horizons in the study of ancient civilizations, allowing archaeologists to obtain detailed information about landscapes and structures hidden under vegetation or soil. In this article, we will look at how Lidar works, what archaeological findings it has helped to make, and what prospects it opens up for future research.

How Lidar works

Lidar is a remote sensing technology that uses laser beams to create three-dimensional models of the Earth's surface. The device emits laser pulses that are reflected from various objects and returned to the receiver. Measuring the time it takes for the pulses to return, the system creates a detailed high-resolution terrain map.

Application of Lidar in archaeology

One of the biggest advantages of Lidar is the ability to “see” through dense vegetation. This is especially useful in tropical forests and densely overgrown areas where traditional research methods are ineffective. The use of Lidar has allowed archaeologists to make several important discoveries that have dramatically changed our understanding of ancient civilizations.

Important findings

Maya in Central America

One of the most significant findings made with the help of Lidar is the discovery of huge Mayan cities in the rainforests of Guatemala. In 2018, an international team of researchers discovered thousands of previously unknown structures, including pyramids, palaces, roads, and even irrigation systems. These findings suggest that the Mayan civilization was much larger and more complex than previously thought.

Ancient Roman roads in Europe

Lidar has also helped to identify a network of ancient Roman roads in the United Kingdom. Using Lidar technology, researchers were able to identify the remains of roads that had disappeared from the surface due to erosion and agricultural activities. These findings allow us to better understand how the Romans organized the logistics and management of their territories.

Angkor in Cambodia

Archaeologists have also used Lidar to explore the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia. In 2012, scientists discovered that Angkor was much larger than previously thought and included numerous settlements and infrastructure. The discovery of new structures and roads allowed us to better understand the social and economic organization of this great civilization.

Prospects and the future

Lidar technology continues to evolve, becoming more accessible and accurate. Its use in archaeology opens up new opportunities for research, particularly in hard-to-reach or dangerous areas. Over time, Lidar may become a standard tool in the work of archaeologists, helping to open new pages of human history.


Lidar technology is revolutionizing archaeological research, allowing scientists to obtain new information about ancient civilizations without the need for extensive excavations. Thanks to Lidar, we have already made several important discoveries that have changed our understanding of the past. And this is just the beginning. The future of archaeology with Lidar promises to be exciting and full of new discoveries that expand the horizons of our knowledge of human history.

Photo: © National Geographic