Readers in Los Angeles may be interested in this colloquium featuring Damian Evans of the EFEO on 1 April, 2020.
Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Venue: Fowler Museum A222, UCLA Campus
Over the last decade, the advent of airborne laser scanning (or lidar) technology has had a significant impact on the field of landscape archaeology worldwide. This is particularly true in the tropical world, where the unique ability of lidar to ‘see through’ vegetation cover and reveal traces of past human activity continues to inform new perspectives on early agriculture, urbanism, and the historical trajectories of ‘tropical forest societies’ such as the Maya and the Khmer.
Despite the increasingly common use of lidar in the field, however, the method has not been universally well-received, and the technique continues to attract controversy in some areas. Frequently, these debates reflect broader issues in contemporary digital archaeology that are brought into sharper focus by lidar: for example, how to address problems of openness and accessibility given concerns over looting and site preservation, and how to reconcile the potential for automation and working at scale with the conventions of a field-oriented, site-focused discipline.
Since 2012 archaeologists have completed multiple lidar acquisitions over Angkor-period sites in Cambodia and Thailand, and coverage is now scaling up dramatically across Southeast Asia, with several new initiatives underway. These different projects have navigated the usual array of social, political, technical, and disciplinary constraints with varying degrees of success. This talk will provide an overview of these various efforts and their research outcomes, look at their experiences in engaging with the issues involved, and offer perspectives on how to move forward with programs of wide-area lidar in light of recent technological advances, emerging applications of artificial intelligence, and the potential for cross-cultural, comparative studies spanning the past and present.