Smithsonian shares how mapping technology cuts through the canopy to identify ruins in the Amazon.
So the team conducted airborne lidar mapping of six different areas, ranging in size from about 4 square miles to 32 square miles, for a bird’s eye view of what was the heartland of Bolivia’s Casarabe culture between about 500 and 1400 C.E. From an aircraft, a lidar system fires down a grid of infrared beams, hundreds of thousands per second, and when each beam strikes something on the Earth’s surface it bounces back with a measure of distance. This produces an enormous cloud of data points, which can be fed into computer software that creates high resolution images in which scientists can digitally deforest the Amazon. By scrubbing away trees the maps reveal the Earth’s surface and the archaeological features on it. In this case, the images clearly showed 26 unique sites, including 11 that were previously unknown.
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