LORE-LPB Project Members Aiding Search for Lost Cities in Central America

Posted on 30. Apr, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in Cuidad Blanca, Honduras, LiDAR, Mosquitia, News, archaeology

LORE-LPB Project Members Aiding Search for Lost Cities in Central America

A recent press release from Colorado State University

Note to Reporters: Print-quality photos of LiDAR images of the research area and CSU assistant professor of geography Stephen Leisz are available with the news release at www.news.colostate.edu.

FORT COLLINS – Colorado State University professors Christopher Fisher and Stephen Leisz have partnered with an international team of researchers utilizing LiDAR technology to seek ancient settlements and human constructed landscapes in an area long rumored to contain the legendary city of Ciudad Blanca – the mythical “White City” – in Central America.

The project is a collaboration of the Global Heritage Foundation (GHF), UTL Productions, the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM), CSU, and the Honduran government. It is outlined in detail in the May 6 edition of The New Yorker.

Fisher, associate professor of archaeology, and Leisz, assistant professor of geography, have successfully worked with airborne LiDAR to help reveal a lost pre-Columbian city in central Mexico. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technique used to examine the earth’s surface.

Researchers focused their search for evidence of ancient settlements in the Mosquitia Coast region of Central America. Until now, dense tropical forests and relative inaccessibility of the region have hampered systematic archaeological investigation.

LiDAR’s computer-generated images allow researchers to “see” through the forest canopy to the ground surface, revealing any evidence of ancient settlements or human-engineered landscapes.

“The LiDAR point cloud data clearly show the remains of large settlements that can be characterized as ancient cities based on their spatial complexity, size and organization,” Fisher said. “We may never be able to tell whether any of these are Ciudad Blanca, or whether the legendary city ever existed, but we can clearly see in the UTL data evidence that there was a densely settled region with a human modified environment. These conclusions provide important new insights into the pre-Hispanic settlement of this largely unexplored region.”

Interpretation of the LiDAR data suggests that the largest of these settlements is roughly the size of the central core of Copan, Honduras, though the architecture appears to be much less monumental. Copan was a Mayan city of nearly 20,000 people that thrived from the 5th through 9th centuries A.D.

Fisher and Leisz utilized LiDAR in recent research documenting the extent and spatial organization of the newly discovered ancient city of Angamuco, Michoacán, Mexico, as part of the Legacies of Resilience Archaeological Project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Geographic Society. Fisher, Leisz and several co-authors championed the use of LiDAR in Mesoamerica in a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as a scientific revolution that will fundamentally change the way that archaeologists do fieldwork.

“We were able to use our work at Angamuco to help reveal similar patterns in the Mosquitia data,” said Leisz. “The Honduras LiDAR results add to a growing number of studies using LiDAR point cloud-derived elevation data to analyze the ancient human impacts on the landscape of the Americas.”

Over the next several months Fisher, Leisz, and NCALM scientists will systematically analyze the Mosquitia data in preparation for fieldwork aimed at ground verification and documentation of the results as part of the broader GHF project. Leisz recently traveled to Honduras to sign a memorandum of understanding between CSU and GHF, as well as agreements of collaboration with The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), and Porfirio Lobo, president of Honduras. Initial results from the project will be presented by Leisz and Fisher in a session on the use of LiDAR at the upcoming American Geophysical Union Meeting of the Americas, to be held May 14-17, in Cancun, Mexico.

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Angamuco Mentioned in a Recent New Yorker Article

Posted on 29. Apr, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in Grants, LORE-LPB, LiDAR, archaeology

Angamuco Mentioned in a Recent New Yorker Article

In the El Dorado Machine, noted author Douglas Preston outlines the efforts to uncover traces of ancient civilization in the Mosquitia region of Honduras.  The Legacies of Resilience Team, including Christopher Fisher and Stephen Leisz, have been involved in this effort.  Check out the article here, which mentions the work at Angamuco and has a couple of quotes from Chris Fisher.

May 6, 2013 Issue

The Main Platform at Angamuco animated

Posted on 24. Apr, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Pátzcuaro Archaeology, Technology, archaeology

The Main Platform at Angamuco animated

This animation shows the area of the Main Platform at Angamuco with and without the overlying vegetation.  A static image of this view has been featured in many recent publications.

A Yacata Gif

Posted on 23. Apr, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Michoacán, News, Pátzcuaro Archaeology, Uncategorized, archaeology

A Yacata Gif

Working on new ways of presenting the LiDAR data – here is a yacata .gif.  It may take a minute to load – possibly was a bit ambitious with the file size.

Perspectives on Community Engagement

Posted on 22. Mar, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, Michoacán, Pátzcuaro Archaeology, archaeology

Perspectives on Community Engagement

Increasingly archaeologists are finding themselves at the center of intensive local debates involving issues of access and ownership, looting, patrimony, local, regional, and national politics, and the nature of community engagement and collaboration.

Our table and crowd at the community event

Rodrigo Solinís-Casparius, University of Washington, addressing the crowd

Issues ranging from how community-based research initiatives can be constructed to the actual financial inputs and contributions of archaeological projects to local economies have become a focus of scholarly interest within the archaeological community.

Another view of the crowd at our table

Most major archaeological projects have some element of community outreach built into their research design – with many doing substantially more.

Our table

For those that know me – unsurprisingly probably – community outreach is not my forte.  Though I realize the imperative of such programs I’m honestly not very good at talking to a non-academic audience.

Luckily for the project the LORE-LPB team is comprised of several talented graduate students and researchers who devoted considerable time and effort this season at better engaging the local community who own and use the land that Angamuco occupies.  These students deserve major kudos for the work they have done in this regard for the 2013 field season.

The next generation of archaeologists?

Yesterday we were able to discuss some of our findings, talk about the nature of archaeology, and the role our research can play in better understanding the prehistory of Michoacán at a community event honoring Benito Juarez.  I hope it is the first of many such activities.

Chris

Cynthia's new student

The importance of Lunch

Posted on 22. Mar, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, Michoacán, Pátzcuaro Archaeology, archaeology

The importance of Lunch

It has been said more then once that a field crew runs on it’s stomach – the LORE-LPB 2013 field season is no exception.  The theme this year seems to be hot food and animals!!

The LORE-LPB 2013 crew refueling mid-day

The best vantage point to see the excavation

Flor's new friend

Chris Fisher takes advantage of lunch for some quick shuteye

Cynthia takes a quick ride

Excavating a Purépecha Community Building – Casa 5128

Posted on 22. Mar, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Michoacán, Pátzcuaro Archaeology, archaeology

Excavating a Purépecha Community Building – Casa 5128

Casa 5128 – a Purépecha public building

Casa 5128 prior to clearing and excavation

Excavation is proceeding well at Casa 5128 – one of two areas currently under excavation.  5128 represents a large building that dominates a small neighborhood of residential and public architecture near one of the largest pyramid complexes at the ancient city.

Casa 5128 during initial clearing

Casa 5128 is constructed on a large platform of stone and rubble that served to flatten a small hill that forms one end of the complex.  On top of this platform walls were constructed of uncut stacked stone with simple clay mortar.  We started excavation by systematically clearing rubble and debris to expose the original exterior and interior.  This also fully exposed the interior areas of the house so that they could be excavated.  At the close of the excavation season the walls and platform of the house will be stabilized and reburied.

Excavating through rubble and wallfall at Casa 5128

Exposing the first floor, Casa 5128

Excavation within the house interior shows a clear sequence of debris on top of a Late Postclassic floor (A.D. 1350-1520), with a second possible floor below containing a mixed Early-Middle Postclassic assemblage (A.D. 1000-1350).  This is followed by fill and debris that form the platform itself.

Clearing debris to expose the first floor, casa 5128

Excavating floor 1, casa 5128

Excavating floor 1, casa 5128

As of today (03/21/2013) we have fully excavated the interior of the house and exposed the platform at the base of the floor-area.  Now the hard part, mapping, drawing profiles, and making sure everything is fully documented prior to consolidation and reburial.

Exposing the platform at the base of casa 5128

Platform at the base of casa 5128 after excavation

Second view of the platform after excavation, casa 5128

Excavation has begun

Posted on 02. Mar, 2013 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Michoacán, Pátzcuaro Archaeology

Excavation has begun

We have begun excavation at two locations within some of the Late and Middle Postclassic areas of occupation at Angamuco.  Here is a video of some of the first days of excavation at Casa 5128 – a large public building that dominates one cluster of residential and other architecture below the largest platform and associated pyramid at the site.  Music  – Chucho Valdez

One Day of Excavation at Angamuco

LiDAR shines a light on hidden sites – Angamuco mentioned

Posted on 09. Sep, 2012 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Michoacán, News

LiDAR shines a light on hidden sites – Angamuco mentioned

A recent post by Curt Hopkins mentions the LORE-LPB work on the online BBC Futures section.

Click here to see the article ” LiDAR Shines a Light on Hidden sites.”

New paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Posted on 16. Jul, 2012 by Christopher Fisher in LORE-LPB, LiDAR, Michoacán, News, Publications

New paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

We have a new paper out arguing for a scientific revolution associated with the advent of high-resolution 3d spatial technologies, please enjoy.

Click here for the PNAS early edition

Chris