Satellite imagery has helped discover ancient Mayan ruins, according to a BBC article. Mayan ruins in San Bartolo, Guatemala, were discovered in 2001, but the dense jungle made exploring the ancient site on foot very difficult. With the help of NASA, many features including a lost Mayan pyramid were identified using satellite imagery and LiDAR. Because Mayan buildings were constructed using limestone, the chemical composition around the ruins was altered over time, making them visible in the imagery. Pinpointing archeological sites with the help of satellite imagery is becoming more common, as demonstrated by space archeologist and 2016 TED Prize winner Dr. Sarah Parcak.

LiDAR is also helping preserve history. Project Map by the University of Colorado Boulder is using the technology to help uncover details about a historic buffalo fur trading outpost built in 1835 at Fort Vasquez in Colorado. University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Gerardo Gutierrez and his students used LiDAR at the location to create a fully interactive architectural rendering of the buildings, terrain, and other features of this historic Colorado monument. According to an article from the University of Colorado’s News Center, the team plans to use the 3D images to create an online database where the public will be able to explore historical sites virtually, as well as provide a permanent record of the site in the event of future deterioration or loss. The team’s next will employ LiDAR-equipped UAVs to map the Chacoan site of Chimney Rock National Monument in Pagosa Springs, Colo.

Photo Credit: NASA

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Posted by Lindsay Tilton Mitchell

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