UCF Biology Professor John Weishampel designed the unique LiDAR approach. He has been using lasers to study forests and other vegetation for years, but this was the first time this specific technology fully recorded an archeological ruin under a tropical rainforest.
"Further applications of airborne LiDAR undoubtedly will vastly improve our understanding of ancient Maya settlement patterns and landscape use, as well as effectively render obsolete traditional methods of surveying," Chase said.
The images taken at the end of the dry season in Belize last April took about 24 hours of flight time to capture and then three weeks to analyze by remote sensing experts from the University of Florida. Now Caracol's entire landscape can be viewed in 3-D, and that already offers new clues that promise to expand current understanding of how the Maya were able to build such a huge empire and what may have caused its destruction.
"The ancient Maya designed and maintained sustainable cities long before 'building green' became a modern term," said Diane Chase, who has worked as co-director of the Caracol Archaeological Project beside her husband for the past 25 years. Her conclusion is based on the extensive agricultural terracing LiDAR revealed.
In addition to the UCF researchers, partners include Jason Drake with the U.S. Forest Service in Tallahassee and an adjunct professor at UCF; Ramesh Shrestha, K. Slatton and William Carter of the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping; and Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archaeology in Belize.
Much more powerful information is anticipated from the data collected. UCF's Weishampel said rainforests play an important role in understanding and managing global warming today. The team's results also give him a snapshot of forest vegetation in that part of the world and how it was influenc
|Contact: Chad Binette|
University of Central Florida