Handheld Mobile LiDAR: Investigating its Viability as a Mapping Tool for Improving the Archaeological Mapping Process




Holshuijsen, Folkert

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Archaeological maps are central to the archaeological process; however, issues regarding their perception and representation are undertheorized and have direct effects on the archaeological outcomes. Mapping technologies such as Handheld Mobile LiDAR (HML) (portable mobile mapping systems) are a viable technology for improving maps, but their use brings new ethical challenges. This research paper focuses on HML applications in archaeology and is guided by two research questions: (1) How can we understand archaeological maps with the goal of making the process, and therefore the outcomes, better?; and (2) Is HML viable and practical for widespread archaeological site mapping? This research project uses a case study into the events surrounding Grace Islet, British Columbia to contextualize the mapping problem. I discuss methods for understanding and improving the archaeological mapping process, following a model of production, circulation, and consumption from Lister and Wells (2004), and embedding ethics as outlined by Meskell and Pels (2005). This research then takes an Action Research approach conducting a case study into the production process of HML maps to investigate its viability as an archaeological mapping tool. I discuss where researchers should practice extra care and hold ethical considerations, and make a case for how this technology can be practiced in the field in a manner that thinks “ethics first,” not “answers first.” This research contributes to the wider conversation of archaeological mapping with its identified approaches and study on the application of HML to foster an approach to archaeological mapping that promotes representation and objectivity, and embeds ethics in every stage.