Media Release: Airborne laser scanning set to revolutionise databases of landscape and archaeology

INTERNATIONAL experts in airborne laser scanning will meet in Scotland today [02 October 2013] to consider how the technology can revolutionise heritage databases of landscape and archaeology.

Airborne laser scanning (ALS) – also known as LiDAR – records the earth’s surface in detail, creating a 3D digital model of its topography.

This can reveal previously unknown archaeology while processing – which strips away trees and other vegetation – literally lets us see beneath woodland cover. It is one of the most important recent innovations in data collection and interpretation for archaeology and heritage management.

At the seminar [2 October 2013], experts from across Europe will meet to share their experience of using ALS at the cutting edge, helping heritage professionals in Scotland to consider how to use this technology to better record and manage our own rich landscapes.

Professor Michael Doneus of the University of Vienna has led the development of many archaeological applications of ALS will speak at the seminar about the potential for ALS “to offer great insights into Scotland’s rich and varied landscapes”.

Another speaker, Dr Jörg Bofinger (of the German Archaeological Institute) will describe how ALS is being used in a unique project to generate a comprehensive survey of Germany’s third-largest state (Baden-Württemberg – 35,742 square kilometres /13,800 sq miles, one seventh the size of the UK) in over just six years.

A survey on this scale conducted without the use of ALS would take decades to conduct.

Speaking about the seminar in Edinburgh, Dave Cowley, aerial survey manager for the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) said: “ALS is a powerful tool to support the creation of systematic heritage databases to enrich our knowledge of Scotland’s past and to inform management and planning.

“The availability of LiDAR can change fundamentally the ways we do things in archaeology and landscape survey, as aerial photography did in the early 20th century.

“It gives us new ways of looking at landscape in 3D, and to harness the power of visualisations and computer processing to rapidly and economically create systematic and accurate archaeological maps.

“The seminar is particularly timely as the availability of ALS in Scotland is increasing, including large-area coverage sponsored by the Scottish Government.”

Graeme Cavers, project manager with AOC Archaeology Group, who is co-hosting the event with RCAHMS and Historic Scotland, added: “This seminar is a great opportunity for leading practitioners to showcase the capabilities of LiDAR, and for heritage professionals to discuss how this revolutionary approach can be routinely integrated to archaeological surveys in the future.”

David Mitchell, director of Conservation at Historic Scotland, said: “Scotland has an international reputation for digitally documenting the historic environment – this seminar indicates the potential to enhance that reputation as Historic Scotland and RCAHMS merge to become a new body and build on that expertise.”


For further information please contact Giselle Dye at Pagoda PR on 0131 556 0770 or email giselle.dye@pagodapr.com


1. The seminar is being hosted by Historic Scotland and jointly organised by AOC Archaeology, RCAHMS, Historic Scotland, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers: Scotland (ALGAO), and the Scottish Government Geographic Information Team.

2. RCAHMS is the National Collection of materials on Scotland’s built environment that connects people to places across time. It is the first port of call for information about the built environment of Scotland, from prehistory to the present and records the changing landscape of Scotland and collects materials relating to it. RCAHMS also holds Scotland’s National Collection of Aerial Photography and one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of international aerial photography. www.rcahms.gov.uk

3. AOC Archaeology Group is a professional archaeological consultancy offering innovative, ethical, sustainable solutions to heritage development (http://www.aocarchaeology.com/)

4. Professor Michael Doneus of the University of Vienna and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (http://archpro.lbg.ac.at/institute/institute) is a world-leading expert on ALS.

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