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Remote Sensing of Chaco Roads Revisited: Lidar Documentation of the Great North Road, Pueblo Alto Landscape, and Aztec Airport Mesa Road

  • Richard A. Friedman (a1) (a2), Anna Sofaer (a3) and Robert S. Weiner (a4)
Abstract

This paper reports on the first and highly effective use of Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) technology to document Chaco roads, monumental linear surface constructions of the precolumbian culture that occupied the Four Corners region of the American Southwest between approximately AD 600 and 1300. Analysis of aerial photographs supplemented by ground survey has been the traditional methodology employed to identify Chaco roads, but their traces have become increasingly subtle and difficult to detect in recent years due to the impacts of natural weathering, erosion, and land development. Roads that were easily visible in aerial photography and on the ground in the 1980s are now virtually invisible, underscoring the need for new, cutting-edge techniques to detect and document them. Using three case studies of the Aztec Airport Mesa Road, the Great North Road, and the Pueblo Alto Landscape, we demonstrate lidar's unprecedented ability to document known Chaco roads, discover previously undetected road segments, and produce a precise quantitative record of these rapidly vanishing features.

Este trabajo informa sobre el primer y altamente eficaz uso de la tecnología lídar para documentar los caminos del Chaco, construcciones lineales monumentales de la cultura precolombina que ocupó la región Four Corners del sudoeste norteamericano entre aproximadamente 600 y 1300 dC. Las metodologías tradicionalmente utilizadas para identificar los caminos del Chaco son el análisis de fotografías aéreas en combinación con la prospección de superficie, pero las huellas de los caminos se han vuelto muy sutiles y difíciles de detectar en los últimos años debido a los impactos de la erosión natural y del desarrollo de la tierra. Caminos que eran fácilmente visibles en fotografías aéreas y en el suelo en la década de 1980 son ahora prácticamente invisibles, lo que subraya la necesidad de utilizar nuevas técnicas para detectar y documentarlos. Utilizando tres estudios de caso—Aztec Airport Mesa Road, Great North Road y Pueblo Alto Landscape—demostramos la capacidad sin precedentes de la tecnología lídar para documentar caminos conocidos, descubrir segmentos previamente no detectados y producir un registro cuantitativo preciso de estas construcciones que están desapareciendo rápidamente.

Copyright
Corresponding author
(robweiner8@gmail.com, corresponding author)
References
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