Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 411–423 | Cite as

LiDAR as a tool for archaeological research: a case study

  • James SchindlingEmail author
  • Cerian Gibbes
Original Paper


Airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) is a technology that offers the ability to create highly detailed digital terrain models (DTMs) that expose low relief topographic features. The availability of these models holds potential to augment archaeological field research by producing visual imagery that can used to identify traces of ancient anthropogenic activity. This capability is particularly useful in hard to access areas and in areas of dense vegetation, where manual surveys are difficult to plan and to execute. Additionally, LiDAR technology is nonintrusive so that initial surveys can be performed without altering or destroying the integrity of the landscape and any features that it may contain. This paper explores the use of LiDAR within the field of archaeology and uses a case study approach to investigate the potential of LiDAR data for identifying earthworks dating back to the pre-Roman period in central England. Additionally, an evaluation of a technique to enhance the imagery in order to facilitate detecting human activity on the landscape is undertaken. Vegetation cover, particularly during leaf-on periods, can interfere with the ability of LiDAR to penetrate to the surface and can therefore impact its accuracy. The effect of vegetation cover on the ability of LiDAR to produce accurate DTMs is evaluated in relationship to its impact on the identification of archaeological features.


LiDAR Archaeological prospection Airborne laser scanning Remote sensing Wombwell wood 



We would like to thank Peter Crow and the UK Forestry Commission for their generous donation of the LiDAR data for Wombwell Wood. We would like to recognize rapidlasso for their LASTools suite of LiDAR data-processing software tools developed by Martin Isenburg. Additionally, we thank the reviewers for their constructive comments which guided the improvement of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology DepartmentUniversity of Colorado at Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of Colorado at Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA

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