Lidar technology has revealed a whole new timeline of human occupation across the UK, from prehistoric burial mounds to hidden Roman roads to medieval farmsteads.
In the UK, the primary use of Lidar for decades was to gather information for the Environment Agency to tackle coastal erosion and inland river floods. But the decision to make the data publicly accessible in 2015 gave UK archaeologists an exciting new way to spot previously undiscovered historical features just below the surface, such as the straight-line imprint of old Roman roads and ancient Iron Age forts.
“One word is ‘transformative’,” said Dr Christopher Smart, a landscape archaeologist at the University of Exeter, who has been using Lidar scans to gain a radical new understanding of past human activity in England’s far west. “The key thing about Lidar is that it can detect fine changes in topography invisible to the naked eye on the ground, or from an aircraft using standard photography. They simply would not be picked up using other means.”
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