Lidar visualization techniques for the construction of geoarchaeological deposit models: An overview and evaluation in alluvial environments

Nicholas Crabb, Chris Carey, Andy J. Howard, Matthew Brolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lidar has become an essential tool for the mapping and interpretation of natural and archaeological features within the landscape. It is also increasingly integrated and visualized within geoarchaeological deposit models, providing valuable topographic and stratigraphic control from the contemporary ground surface downwards. However, there is a wide range of methods available for the visualization of lidar elevation models and a review of existing research suggests that it remains unclear which are most appropriate for geoarchaeological applications. This paper addresses this issue by providing an overview and quantitative evaluation of these techniques with examples from archaeologically resource‐rich alluvial environments. Owing to the relatively low‐relief nature of the terrain within these temperate lowland flood plain environments, the results show that there is a small number of visualization methods that demonstrably improve the detection of geomorphological landforms that can be related to the variable distribution of archaeological resources. More specifically, a combination of Relative Elevation Models combined with Simple Local Relief Models offered an optimal approach that subsequently allows integration with deposit models. Whilst the presented examples are from a flood plain setting, deposit models are pertinent to a range of landscape contexts and the methodology applied here has wider applicability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-444
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are also grateful to Dr. Niall Burnside, Richard Higham (University of Brighton), and Robin Jackson (Worcestershire Archaeology) for their assistance with and discussion of aspects of this research. We are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments whose comments helped to improve the quality of this paper. This work was supported by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant for the Centre for Doctoral Training: Science and Engineering in Art, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA; EP/L016036/1). The open government license lidar data that support the findings of this study are available from the DEFRA Data Services Platform (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2021).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Geoarchaeology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • alluvial environments
  • geoarchaeological deposit modelling
  • lidar visualization
  • remote sensing
  • separability analysis


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