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LiDAR is Archaeology’s Most Amazing Discovery

July 20, 2018

As a company that creates custom laser optics that are essential to LiDAR systems, we like to share the technology’s many novel applications as they arise. Among the most interesting ways LiDAR is being used is in the field of archaeology. In just a few years, it has completely turned the field on its head.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR is a detection and mapping technology that uses light from a laser in the same way radar uses radio waves. It sends out lasers, records the time it takes them to get back, and creates a map using that information. It was developed by NASA in the early 1970s and was first used on the Apollo 15 mission to map the surface of the moon.

How LiDAR is Rewriting History

LiDAR has been described as the most important innovation in archaeology since carbon dating. By seeing through vegetation and revealing what’s underneath the many layers of jungle canopy, it drastically reduces the amount of time it takes for an archaeologist to survey a potential site. We’re talking about going from years or even decades down to 35 to 45 minutes.

Earlier this year, a series of LiDAR flyovers revealed sprawling urban neighborhoods and a complex system of heavily trafficked elevated causeways spanning Mexico and Central America. The discoveries have tripled the population estimates of the Mayan civilization.

In 2015, LiDAR was used to uncover a large and previously unknown culture deep in the Mosquitia rainforest of eastern Honduras. In the deepest recesses of Amazonia, it has shown evidence of a vanished agricultural civilization that may have supported up to 1 million people!

Superior Laser Components from IRD Glass

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We were recently awarded a Certificate for Exceptional Quality Performance by Honeywell after we achieved zero parts-per-million defects in the last 12 months.

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