An international three-day workshop on archaeological interpretation of lidar data was held in mid-March at the European Archaeological Centre at Bibracte. It was organized in cooperation with the LEA ModeLTER (MSHE C.N. Ledoux, ZRC SAZU), ArchaeoLandscapes Europe, ISA and the AARG. More than 60 researchers working with lidar data in archaeology participated. The workshop facilitated discussion, helped share expertise and supported collaborations within this growing research community.
The event was organized in three parts:
- round table discussion
Topics included the practicalities and experiences of and opportunities for working with lidar in France (L. Nuninger, M. Leroy) and other parts of Europe (R. Opitz, S. Crutchly, Ž. Kokalj). Case studies focused on methodological development (K. Challis), presented successes and possible pitfalls (C. Fruchart, M. Leroy), and illustrated practical (B. Å tular, N. Poirier) and theoretical (D. Mlekuz) approaches to integration of lidar data into the wider scope of landscape archaeology.
Small group workshops provided an opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience in a number of areas. In addition to a beginner's course, workshops were held on the topics of
- data visualization
- data interpretation and management
- raw data processing
- the application of aerial photographic approaches to lidar interpretation.
These workshops aimed to combine exercises and discussion. Participants were provided with access to a variety of software tools and sample datasets, and many participants brought data which they are currently using in their projects. Each participant was able to attend two or three workshops.
Round table discussion
A round table discussion (moderated by A. Posluschny and Ž. Kokalj) at the end of the meeting on the state of the field and the potential for future collaborative research raised a number of interesting points and questions - the two most important being on the issue of management of large new data volumes and the significance of pushing the technology and methods past the prospection phase.
Discussion on the topic of large scale prospection - as illustrated by the work of Ralf Hesse who has mapped more than 100,000 features in past few years in Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, Germany - combined enthusiasm with the recognition of major challenges.
It was remarked that the use of lidar data in archaeology can be seen as a "third revolution" following after the aerial photography and high-resolution satellite imagery, while it was agreed that the increasing popularity and effectiveness of lidar as a prospection method is creating a serious challenge: how should we manage the masses of newly gathered data? This challenge is particularly acute as another recognized trend is the increasing availability of free or inexpensive "second hand" lidar data; some European countries are in the process of national acquisition campaigns, e.g. the Netherlands, Denmark, England, Czech Republic and Slovenia.
The conviction that more archaeologists should be involved in the lidar data interpretation process was the main result of the discussion on this topic. To harness this enormous potential of these emerging datasets, it is suggested that methods should to be developed that will enable archaeologists to engage with lidar derived data with minimal training.