Airborne lidar and the historic environment

airborne-lidar-historic-environmentAirborne lidar has gradually assumed a place as part of the toolkit of remote sensing techniques available to archaeologists interested in landscape studies, although its use for the enhancement of historic environment records (HER) is in its infancy.

The production and maintenance of HER is a labour intensive, costly process, challenging the resources allocated to the historic environment by local and national government. Changes in the legislation affecting scheduled ancient monuments and listed buildings proposed by central government will have a knock-on impact on HER records, for the first time making it a statutory responsibility of local authorities to maintain an authoritative HER and broadening the remit of those records.

This research investigated the potential of airborne lidar elevation data to enhance historic environment records through providing a rapid, landscape-scale record of upstanding archaeological earthworks. A 25km section of the River Dove Valley on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border in the midlands of England was examined, and the results of analysis of lidar data compared with the existing HER for the study area and with control information obtained from a rapid assessment of vertical aerial photography.

This analysis demonstrates that lidar has the potential to provide significant extra information on cultural heritage, is a cost effective technique, in some instances representing a better value return than analysis of standard air-photography. While this example is based on the British archaeological record, lidar is increasingly available globally and the approach examined has significant generic implications for cultural resource management internationally.