Archaeological application of Airborne LiDAR with object-based vegetation classification and visualization techniques at the lowland Maya Site of Ceibal, Guatemala

Takeshi Inomata, Flory Pinzón, José Luis Ranchos, Tsuyoshi Haraguchi, Hiroo Nasu, Juan Carlos Fernandez-Diaz, Kazuo Aoyama, Hitoshi Yonenobu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


The successful analysis of LiDAR data for archaeological research requires an evaluation of effects of different vegetation types and the use of adequate visualization techniques for the identification of archaeological features. The Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project conducted a LiDAR survey of an area of 20 × 20 km around the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala, which comprises diverse vegetation classes, including rainforest, secondary vegetation, agricultural fields, and pastures. We developed a classification of vegetation through object-based image analysis (OBIA), primarily using LiDAR-derived datasets, and evaluated various visualization techniques of LiDAR data. We then compared probable archaeological features identified in the LiDAR data with the archaeological map produced by Harvard University in the 1960s and conducted ground-truthing in sample areas. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of the OBIA approach to vegetation classification in archaeological applications, and suggests that the Red Relief Image Map (RRIM) aids the efficient identification of subtle archaeological features. LiDAR functioned reasonably well for the thick rainforest in this high precipitation region, but the densest parts of foliage appear to create patches with no or few ground points, which make the identification of small structures problematic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number563
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017



  • Archaeology
  • LiDAR
  • Maya
  • Object-based image analysis (OBIA)
  • Red Relief Image Map (RRIM)
  • Tropical lowlands
  • Vegetation classification
  • Visualization techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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