LiDAR and lost cities in Central America

An international team of researchers including Colorado State University professors Christopher Fisher and Stephen Leisz have been utilizing LiDAR technology to seek ancient settlements and human constructed landscapes in an area long rumoured to contain the legendary city of Ciudad Blanca – the mythical “White City” – in Central America.

Lidar image with tree cover removed. Colorado State University

The project is a collaboration of the Global Heritage Foundation (GHF), UTL Productions, the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM), CSU, and the Honduran government. It is outlined in detail in the May 6 edition of The New Yorker.

LiDAR is the latest in survey prospection

Fisher, an associate professor of archaeology, and Leisz, assistant professor of geography, have previously worked with airborne LiDAR to help reveal a lost pre-Columbian city in central Mexico. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technique used to examine the earth’s surface.

Researchers focused their search for evidence of ancient settlements in the Mosquitia Coast region of Central America. Until now, dense tropical forests and relative inaccessibility of the region have hampered systematic archaeological investigation.

LiDAR’s computer-generated images allow researchers to “see” through the forest canopy to the ground surface, revealing any evidence of ancient settlements or human-engineered landscapes.

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