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Volume 30
Number 2
Fall 2013
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Three-dimensional point cloud data overlay a terrain model of the Big Hidatsa Village area In Focus: Archeology in Park Management
Use of high-resolution airborne laser scanning for the analysis of archeological and natural landscapes on the northern Great Plains
By Jay T. Sturdevant, Stephen K. Wilson, and Jeff Bragg
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Hidatsa villages and communities
Illumination of landscapes
Understanding changes to archeological landscapes
About the authors
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People are continually modifying natural landscapes in ways that meet the needs of individuals and communities. Understanding how humans live within the natural environment and how we modify landscapes provides useful insight into human behavior and cultural practices. Archeological landscapes harbor details about past cultural practices at spatial scales that change over time and reveal community structures and patterning. The advancement of airborne technologies is creating new opportunities to explore archeological landscapes in ways not possible a decade ago (Chase et al. 2011; Crutchley and Crow 2009; Doneus and Briese 2011; Shaw and Corns 2011). The challenge for archeologists and other researchers is to produce data sets with sufficient resolution to identify and analyze individual archeological features such as earthen lodges, palisade walls, and earthen mounds. Earlier maps and aerial imagery have been effective at detailing topography, locating archeological sites, and illustrating archeological features. Current laser scanning technologies offer the potential to produce landscape models with incredibly detailed illustrations of archeological sites that can be used in geographic information systems, thereby harnessing the power of modern computing to generate new insights into past human interactions with natural landscapes. This multidisciplinary research project has produced a high-resolution three-dimensional data set that allows for detailed analysis of landscape features that clearly illustrate the archeological landscapes along the Knife River in North Dakota.

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