Through a Scanner...Darkly? LiDAR, Survey, and Mapping at the Ancient Maya Center El Pilar

Author(s): Sherman Horn; Anabel Ford

Year: 2018


Survey at the ancient Maya center El Pilar, along the border between Belize and Guatemala, has incorporated LiDAR imagery since 2013, allowing expansive – yet targeted – coverage of settlement beyond the monumental core. Successive field seasons have revealed a complex picture of landscape modification, resource extraction, and settlement concentration in different micro-environmental zones around the city center. Our fieldwork in 2017 had three foci: 1) explore and map the Amatal Supercluster, a grouping of domestic and monumental structures identified in LiDAR imagery west of the monumental core; 2) remap the minor ceremonial center K’um, where LiDAR signatures suggested a more complex site than was recorded in the 1990s; and 3) survey the area between these centers and validate settlement remains suggested by analysis of LiDAR imagery. We present our results and examine relationships between settlement, landscape modification, and resource use around El Pilar. We further explore the differences between what LiDAR returns indicate and what is discovered by putting survey boots on the ground. Our results suggest new survey protocols, such as those we present, are necessary to fully realize the power of LiDAR as a survey tool in the Maya Lowlands.

Cite this Record

Through a Scanner...Darkly? LiDAR, Survey, and Mapping at the Ancient Maya Center El Pilar. Sherman Horn, Anabel Ford. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442609)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22281