Journal article Open Access

Automated mound detection using lidar and object-based image analysis in Beaufort County, South Carolina

Davis, Dylan S.; Sanger, Matthew C.; Lipo, Carl P.

The study of precontact anthropogenic mounded features—earthen mounds, shell heaps, and shell rings—in the American Southeast is stymied by the spotty distribution of systematic surveys across the region. Many extant, yet unidentified, archaeological mound features continue to evade detection due to the heavily forested canopies that occupy large areas of the region, making pedestrian surveys difficult and preventing aerial observation. Object-based image analysis (OBIA) is a tool for analyzing light and radar (lidar) data and offers an inexpensive opportunity to address this challenge. Using publicly available lidar data from Beaufort County, South Carolina, and an OBIA approach that incorporates morphometric classification and statistical template matching, we systematically identify over 160 previously undetected mound features. This result improves our overall knowledge of settlement patterns by providing systematic knowledge about past landscapes.

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