Laser Technology professional measurement lasers are used to gather field measurements to map the surrounding environment. In the case of a recent project from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, LTI’s mapping lasers are being used to paint a picture of the past.
Dr. Adolfo Ivan Batun Alpuche, Dr. Patricia McAnany and Nikolas Smilovsky headlined a cultural heritage project aimed at mapping the indigenous peoples of Yucatan, Mexico, in relation to 16th Century Spanish colonization. UNC received funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant, specifically from the Catalyzing New International Collaboration category.
As the project unfolded, LTI was contacted by a representative who needed industry leading tools to help accomplish the goals of The Pryecto Arquelogico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatan Project. LTI was quick to jump on the chance to lend its lasers to such an interesting project and loaned the doctors and GIS professionals a TruPulse 360 handheld compass laser rangefinder capable of measuring distances, heights and azimuths.
The main goal of the project was to, "archaeologically document the households of the colonialized people who built the mission churches that still stand in testament to the dramatic social and political upheaval that accompanied Spanish incursions into the Yucatan." To accomplish this feat, Smilovsky turned to mapping. "Not only does mapping provide a visual of what stands today, it gives us hints about what used to stand."
Using a LiDAR scanner, the team was able to map 150-500 meter coverage zones that each contained around 7.5 million points. In addition to this, water sources called cenotes were a focus of the research. Cenotes are naturally occurring sink holes and caves created by erosion that contain fresh water. Smilovsky accomplished mapping these using GPS and the TruPulse laser to set control and offset points in and around the openings of each cenote. The TruPulse 360 was also used to measure the depth of water in relation to ground level.
The team was then able to take all of the information collected in the field and is currently busy analyzing it back at the University. Using traditional mapping and measuring tools is very time consuming and a project of this magnitude may not have been attempted due to high costs but LTI’s TruPulse 360 and other industry tools made it possible. Smilovsky states, "It was truly a pleasure to be able to utilize these cutting-edge technologies to assist with the overall goals of the project."
Read the article on Mapping the Maya.