Employment, Utilization, and Development of Airborne Laser Scanning in Fenno-Scandinavian Archaeology — a Review
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionRemote Sensing. 2020, 12 (1411), 1-41. 10.3390/rs12091411
This paper gives a presentation of how airborne laser scanning (ALS) has been adopted in archaeology in the North over the period 2005–2019. Almost two decades have passed since ALS first emerged as a potential tool to add to the archaeologist’s toolbox. Soon after, it attracted the attention of researchers within archaeological communities engaged with remote sensing in the Fenno-Scandinavian region. The first archaeological ALS projects gave immediate good results and led to further use, research, and development through new projects that followed various tracks. The bulk of the research and development focused on studying how well-suited ALS is for identifying, mapping, and documenting archaeological features in outfield land, mainly in forested areas. The poor situation in terms of lack of information on archaeological records in outfield areas has been challenging for research and especially for cultural heritage management for a long period of time. Consequently, an obvious direction was to study how ALS-based mapping of cultural features in forests could help to improve the survey situation. This led to various statistical analyses and studies covering research questions related to for instance effects on detection success of laser pulse density, and the size and shape of the targeted features. Substantial research has also been devoted to the development and assessment of semi-automatic detection of archaeological features based on the use of algorithms. This has been studied as an alternative approach to human desk-based visual analyses and interpretations of ALS data. This approach has considerable potential for detecting sites over large regions such as the vast roadless and unbuilt wilderness regions of northern Fennoscandia, and has proven highly successful. In addition, the current review presents how ALS has been employed for monitoring purposes and for landscape studies, including how it can influence landscape understanding. Finally, the most recent advance within ALS research and development has been discussed: testing of the use of drones for data acquisition. In conclusion, aspects related to the utilization of ALS in archaeological research and cultural heritage management are summarized and discussed, together with thoughts about future perspectives.