A stunning discovery using LIDAR technology has revealed an ancient network of roads and settlements buried deep in the jungles of Ecuador’s Amazon region. Archaeologist Jay Silverstein explains how the remote sensing capabilities of LIDAR allowed researchers to peer beneath the dense rainforest foliage and locate these archaeological ruins without having to brave the hazards of the terrain.
While some may wonder if technological advances like LIDAR mark the end of an era for hands-on archaeological exploration, Dr. Silverstein argues there is still much left to uncover. Though remote sensing provides invaluable clues, only physical excavation and study can reveal the true significance, context and secrets of ancient sites.
He notes that at his current dig site in Egypt, initial scans detected the ruins of a Hellenistic building, but it was only through excavation that researchers found revealing evidence about the site’s occupational history, including signs of rebuilding, war-related destruction, and contact with Roman civilization centuries later.
As more ancient sites are being detected globally via lidar, drones and other remote sensors, Dr. Silverstein stresses that the challenge now is having the resources and time to properly excavate, analyze and protect these places. Though technology gifts us tantalizing clues about humanity’s buried past, the real work of carefully unraveling that intricate history has only just begun.