Airborne Laser Scanning and Image Processing Techniques for Archaeological Prospection
Keywords: Digital terrain model, non-invasive archaeology, DTM, shaded relief, LiDAR
Abstract. Aerial photography was, for decades, an invaluable tool for archaeological prospection, in spite of the limitation of this method to deforested areas. The airborne laser scanning (ALS) method can be nowadays used to map complex areas and suitable complement earlier findings. This article describes visualization and image processing methods that can be applied on digital terrain models (DTMs) to highlight objects hidden in the landscape. Thanks to the analysis of visualized DTM it is possible to understand the landscape evolution including the differentiation between natural processes and human interventions. Different visualization methods were applied on a case study area. A system of parallel tracks hidden in a forest and its surroundings – part of old route called "Devil's Furrow" near the town of Sázava was chosen. The whole area around well known part of Devil's Furrow has not been prospected systematically yet. The data from the airborne laser scanning acquired by the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre was used. The average density of the point cloud was approximately 1 point/m2 The goal of the project was to visualize the utmost smallest terrain discontinuities, e.g. tracks and erosion furrows, which some were not wholly preserved. Generally we were interested in objects that are clearly not visible in DTMs displayed in the form of shaded relief. Some of the typical visualization methods were tested (shaded relief, aspect and slope image). To get better results we applied image-processing methods that were successfully used on aerial photographs or hyperspectral images in the past. The usage of different visualization techniques on one site allowed us to verify the natural character of the southern part of Devil’s Furrow and find formations up to now hidden in the forests.