Home Pick, Shovel, Canteen, Map, Lidar, GPS…

Pick, Shovel, Canteen, Map, Lidar, GPS…

An archaeologist told me once that his field was slow to accept new technology. But all it takes are a few and soon the dam has burst. The dam’s yet to burst but there are definitely trickles.

The newest discovery, after a new hominid via Google Earth and the moment an empire formed courtesy rugged handhelds and GPS, is the complete mapping of a large Mayan city from ruins using aerial lasers. In four days.

Instead of taking years to map the complex Mayan city of Caracol in Belize, Professors Arlen and Diane Chase took only four days last year to map the area using lidar, light detection and ranging. In those four days of over-flights, the archaeologists told the New York Times, they put together more information than had been gathered in the previous 25 years. When they were done they had mapped 80 square miles of city and environs.

Possibly the most complex (and, technically-speaking, coolest) use of mapping technology in an archaeological context is Professor Kent Weeks’s Theban Mapping Project. It is also a handy microcosm of technology use in the field. Starting in 1978 with tape measures and theodolites, then graduating to “total station” surveying equipment and finally using 360-degree automated laser mapping, Weeks and his crew have surveyed 62 tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. These tombs range in size from a couple of corridors and chambers to, in the case of their biggest discovery, the tomb called KV5, 121. So far.

The extensive computer models of the Valley and of the Theban Necropolis are available as an online atlas for anyone to use.

The most important thing is to learn who we are. If by denying too-soon adoptions of technology and faddish methods we do that, great. But if by experimenting with new technologies in a responsible fashion we advance our knowledge of ourselves, that is equally desirable.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.