[Paper] Emerging Applications of LiDAR / Airborne Laser Scanning in the Management of World Heritage Sites

Featuring recent work in Cambodia

Remotely sensed data and imagery have revolutionized the way we understand archaeological sites and landscapes. LiDAR / airborne laser scanning (ALS) has been used to capture the often subtle topographic remnants of previously undiscovered sites even in intensely studied landscapes, and is rapidly becoming a key technology in survey projects with large extents and/or difficult terrain. This paper examines the practical application of this technology to archaeological heritage management, with special attention given to how ALS can support the World Heritage List nomination process and management of WHS archaeological sites and landscapes. It presents a number of examples from published ALS studies alongside case studies from projects undertaken by the authors at Cultural Site Research and Management and the Cultural Site Research and Management Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The paper opens with a review of how ALS has been used at established World Heritage Sites, focusing on the Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend in the Boyne, Ireland, and the Angkor Archaeological Site in Cambodia. ALS applications for site prospection and demarcation, and viewshed analysis is explored in this section. Following this, we explore how ALS has been used to support two recent applications: the successfully nominated Monumental Earthworks at Poverty Point, USA and the recently nominated Orheiul Vechi Archaeological Landscape in Moldova. We propose that the detail offered by ALS data greatly strengthens nomination dossiers by emphasizing the outstanding universal value of sites, highlighting significant features and providing greater context to wider landscapes, and is particularly efficacious in delineating site boundaries for legal protection and long-term management. Finally, we conclude with a look at some of the practical considerations involved in the use of ALS, including access and training.

Source: Emerging Applications of LiDAR / Airborne Laser Scanning in the Management of World Heritage Sites: Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites: Vol 18, No 4

Land of fabled temple | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

New Straits Times, 15 April 2017: A travel story on the many popular temple sites to visit in Angkor.

THREE decades of friendship! Now that’s something to celebrate. And to mark the milestone, my friend Mathini Raman and I decided to embark on an adventure together, one that we’ll never forget.

Source: Land of fabled temple | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted

The Observer, 12 April 2017: “I went into it because I thought I might be able to afford to buy what I thought was a copy of a Cambodian statue in the window. Then the man named a price which was absolutely incredible. I said, ‘Do you mean that this piece is authentic?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Then you are a thief.’”

An exiled prince tries to recover antiquities stolen from his home country of Cambodia.

Source: Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted | Observer

Angkor ticket sales will go online

TTR Weekly, 12 April 2017

Two Cambodian ministries approved measures, last week, that will allow tourists to pay by credit card and obtain entrance tickets to Angkor Wat online.

Agence Kampuchea Presse reported that approval was granted during a Board Meeting of Angkor Enterprise chaired by Aun Porn Moniroth, senior minister and Minister of Economy and Finance as well as the Ministry of Tourism.

The two ministries agreed to allow Angkor Enterprise to develop and manage ticket sales to foreign tourists online with secure credit card payments.

Source: Angkor ticket sales will go online : TTR Weekly

Angkor sees revenue boost due to price hike

TTR Weekly, 11 April 2017: Revenue has risen, as expected, but also, the number of visitors has risen as well.

Ticket sales revenue earned from foreigners visiting Angkor Wat archaeological park reached USD30.85 million during January to March, this year, up 51.6% compared with the same period last year.
Khmer Times quoted figures released by the state-owned, Angkor Institution, which is in charge of ticket sales at the World Heritage site.
The report also claimed the number of foreign visitors to the World Heritage site rose 8.95% to 764,146 in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.

Source: Angkor fees boost national coffers : TTR Weekly

[Talk] Seeing Through the Forest: Lost Cities, Remote Sensing and LiDAR Applications in Archaeology

If anyone is in Singapore tomorrow, catch Dr Kyle Latinis’ talk at ISEAS

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is one of the newest remote sensing technologies to be used for archaeology and related sciences. Results are revolutionizing the field, especially among researchers studying ancient urban landscapes in Southeast Asia (The Guardian, 11 June 2016).

LiDAR applications digitally peel away forest canopies and vegetative cover resulting in sophisticated surface images and detailed topographic maps of natural and cultural landscapes. LiDAR data has been integral for recent research and training initiatives at the Nalanda–Sriwijaya Centre (NSC).

LiDAR abilities cannot be underestimated. However, there are limitations. Ground-truthing through archaeological surveys and excavations continue to play necessary and central roles.

The following discussion will introduce LiDAR technology, capabilities, and limits followed by examples of LiDAR application for two recent NSC projects: Mahendraparvata – the 9th century Angkorian capital city of Jayavarman II, legendary founder of the Angkorian empire; and Koh Ker [Chok Gargyar] – the mysterious 10th century Angkorian capital city of Jayavarman IV, often depicted as a rogue usurper king. Future NSC research possibilities using LiDAR applications for other Southeast Asia sites will also be introduced.

Source: Lecture: Seeing Through the Forest: Lost Cities, Remote Sensing and LiDAR Applications in Archaeology – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Angkor visitor and revenue numbers up, despite price hike

Xinhua News, 01 April 2017: The recent ticket price hike to Angkor does not seem to have an adverse effect on visitor numbers.

Revenue from ticket sales to foreigners visiting Cambodia’s famed Angkor archeological park reached 30.8 million U.S. dollars in the first quarter of 2017, up 51.6 percent over the same period last year, according to an official report on Saturday.

Source: Cambodia’s famed Angkor earns nearly 31 mln USD from ticket sales in Q1 – Xinhua | English.news.cn

See also: Tourists increasing despite price

Angkor hilltop sunset rationed – TTR Weekly

The Apsara Authority reports plans to limit the number of people going to Phnom Bakheng to watch the sun set, as a plan to mitigate long-term damage by tourists.

Source: Angkor hilltop sunset rationed : TTR Weekly

See also: Limits put in place to stop tourists ruining Angkor sunsets

Chinese Angkor Wat Project catches the Apsara Authority unawares

A Chinese company announced plans to build a $21 million cultural park in Angkor, but the Apsara Authority announced that they have not been informed of such a venture.

A Chinese investment company is planning to build a $21.8 million cultural park near Angkor Wat, according to a report in Chinese media, although the authority responsible for the world heritage site said on Sunday it had not been approached about the project.

Source: Apsara Authority Unaware of Chinese Angkor Wat Project – The Cambodia Daily

See also: Yunnan firm eyes Cambodian park

mm-scale motion detected in Angkor temples, with implications for future structural stability

A new (Open Access) paper in Science Advances describes using radar imagery to detect motion in Angkoran temples over time. In the short term, the effects of groundwater pumping seems to be minimal on the temple structures (+/- 3mm) but there are implications in the long term.

The conservation of World Heritage is critical to the cultural and social sustainability of regions and nations. Risk monitoring and preventive diagnosis of threats to heritage sites in any given ecosystem are a complex and challenging task. Taking advantage of the performance of Earth Observation technologies, we measured the impacts of hitherto imperceptible and poorly understood factors of groundwater and temperature variations on the monuments in the Angkor World Heritage site (400 km2). We developed a two-scale synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) approach. We describe spatial-temporal displacements (at millimeter-level accuracy), as measured by high-resolution TerraSAR/TanDEM-X satellite images, to provide a new solution to resolve the current controversy surrounding the potential structural collapse of monuments in Angkor. Multidisciplinary analysis in conjunction with a deterioration kinetics model offers new insights into the causes that trigger the potential decline of Angkor monuments. Our results show that pumping groundwater for residential and touristic establishments did not threaten the sustainability of monuments during 2011 to 2013; however, seasonal variations of the groundwater table and the thermodynamics of stone materials are factors that could trigger and/or aggravate the deterioration of monuments. These factors amplify known impacts of chemical weathering and biological alteration of temple materials. The InSAR solution reported in this study could have implications for monitoring and sustainable conservation of monuments in World Heritage sites elsewhere.

Source: Radar interferometry offers new insights into threats to the Angkor site | Science Advances

See also:
Angkor temples are safe from sudden collapse—for now
Iconic Angkor Wat temple at risk of collapse because of environmental threats