LiDAR in the Maya Heartland: Results of the 2016 LiDAR survey in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

During the summer of 2016, the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping conducted the first phase of an ambitious LiDAR survey of over 1400 km2 of forested areas within the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) of the northern Petén district of Guatemala. The project, sponsored by Fundación PACUNAM (a Guatemalan non-profit organization focused on the research and conservation in the MBR), included areas currently under investigation, including Tikal, El Zotz, Holmul, La Corona, Xultun, San Bartolo, Waka’, Naachtun and Uaxactun. These are some of the most important lowland Maya centers that flourished throughout both the Preclassic and Classic periods, many of which have been mapped to various degrees of completeness with traditional field methods. The project also targeted areas where only cursory archaeological research has been conducted, such as between the sites of Xmakabantun and Holmul in the northeast and swaths of the Parque Laguna del Tigre in the west. The participants will present results relevant to not only the detection and interpretation of archaeological and environmental features in each coverage area, but also the methodological issues raised during the various stages of LiDAR data analysis that might prove useful to future applications of this technology in similar environmental conditions.

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  • Documents (8)

  • Baseline Remote Sensing Survey of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Petén Guatemala (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Juan Fernandez Diaz. Ramesh Shrestha.

    The Fundación Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (PACUNAM), a non-governmental-organization (NGO) from Guatemala, works for the promotion and preservation of cultural and natural patrimony contained within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in the department of Petén in Guatemala. To aid with their preservation and promotion goals, PACUNAM, has developed a plan to perform an airborne lidar and hyperspectral survey of nearly 14,000 km² of the MBR and neighboring regions over a three year period....

  • The Cultural and Natural Landscapes of El Tintal, Guatemala: Preliminary Results of the Application of Airborne LiDAR (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Jane Acuña. Varinia Matute. Carlos Chiriboga. Francisco Castañeda.

    In this paper, we present the results of our preliminary analysis of the application of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) imagery of the archaeological site of El Tintal in northern Guatemala. El Tintal is an extensive site with over 800 known buildings distributed in an area of about 12 square kilometers. From the Preclassic through the Late Classic Periods (ca. 400 B.C. to A.D. 850), the cultural settlement developed in direct association with the natural landscape marked by extensive bajos...

  • Documenting Classic Maya Urban Landscapes: Comparing and Integrating the Results of LiDAR and Topographic Survey at El Perú-Waka’, Petén, Guatemala (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Damien Marken. David Freidel.

    Hidden by the dense forest canopy of the Petén, the size, shape and form of Classic Maya cities have remained difficult for archaeologists to document in their entirety. In recent years, however, the application of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technologies have enabled the rapid acquisition of topographic data for large swaths of the Maya lowlands. These previous investigations, primarily in Belize, Mexico, and Honduras, demonstrate, however, that the quality and required steps in...

  • Hilltops and Boundaries: The LiDAR Survey of El Zotz and Tikal (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Thomas Garrison. Stephen Houston. Omar Alcover Firpi.

    The ancient Maya kingdoms of El Zotz and Tikal, while not comparable in size or influence, share a geographical region in the central Peten of Guatemala. Tikal is located at the eastern head of the Buenavista Valley, the northernmost east-west corridor of the Peten Karst Plateau, with El Zotz situated 23 km to the west at the intersection of the valley and a north-south drainage leading to El Mirador and the northern Peten. A steep limestone escarpment and the karstic uplands north of it bind...

  • Preliminary Lidar-Based Analyses of Naachtun Settlement Patterns and Land Use (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Philippe Nondédéo. Cyril Castanet. Eva Lemonnier. Louise Purdue. Jean-François Cuenot.

    Located in the northern Petén, Guatemala, the Maya site of Naachtun has been investigated since 2010 by a pluri-disciplinary French-Guatemalan team. Some of its goals aim to reconstruct the political history of the site and its spatial evolution through time, and to understand the management of local resources and the impact of anthropic activities on the landscape. Archaeological and environmental excavations and studies have been carried out in the city center and surroundings areas while a...

  • Preliminary LiDAR-based Analyses of the La Corona – El Achiotal Corridor (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marcello Canuto. Tomás Barrientos. Luke Auld-Thomas. David Chatelain.

    Located in the northwestern Petén, Guatemala, the Maya sites of La Corona and El Achiotal have been investigated since 2008 by a multi-disciplinary US and Guatemalan research project. While a primary goal of this project has been to reconstruct the region’s political history, we are now beginning to investigate the management of local resources and general human impact on the landscape. In fact, the area between La Corona and El Achiotal is almost entirely unknown archaeologically, especially...

  • Site Map Validation and Quantifying Linkages between Multispectral and Lidar Remote Sensing for Settlement Pattern Mapping (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Saturno. Robert Griffin. Thomas Sever. Boris Beltran.

    Fifteen years of field survey and image processing of commercial satellite optical data have contributed to robust site maps of San Bartolo and Xultun, among other PROSABA sites in northeastern Peten. The recent acquisition of lidar-derived DSM and DTM data through PACUNAM has made new types of analyses possible, including the validation and enhancement of the site maps. We present recent mapping discoveries in the PROSABA region and research into the validation and extrapolation of settlement...

  • Usability of LiDAR data for archaeological survey in the Uaxactun area, North Peten, Guatemala. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tibor Lieskovsky. Milan Kovac. Tomas Drapela.

    The paper deals with validation and quality estimation of spatial data acquired in the focus area of the project "Proyecto arquelogico regional – Uaxactun" as a part of a LIDAR project supported by the PACUNAM. The project has 2 high-quality 3D models of the pre-classical city of Uaxactun and the site of Dos Torres acquired by detailed topographical survey of the focus area at its disposal. The DEMs serve as basis for the evaluation of spatial accuracy of the LiDAR DSM and an etalon for...