Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology

Publication Date



Ubiquity Press Ltd.





First Page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Last Page



Airborne laser scanning or lidar has now been used by archaeologists for twenty years, with many of the first applications relying on data acquired by public agencies seeking to establish baseline elevation maps, mainly in Europe and North America. More recently, several wide-area acquisitions have been designed and commissioned by archaeologists, the most extensive of which cover tropical forest environments in the Americas and Southeast Asia. In these regions, the ability of lidar to map microtopographic relief and reveal anthropogenic traces on the Earth’s surface, even beneath dense vegetation, has been welcomed by many as a transformational breakthrough in our field of research. Nevertheless, applications of the method have attracted a measure of criticism and controversy, and the impact and significance of lidar are still debated. Now that wide-area, high-density laser scanning is becoming a standard part of many archaeologists’ toolkits, it is an opportune moment to reflect on its position in contemporary archaeological practice and to move towards a code of ethics that is vital for scientific research. The papers in this Special Collection draw on experiences with using lidar in archaeological research programs, not only to highlight the new insights that derive from it but also to cast a critical eye on past practices and to assess what challenges and opportunities remain for developing codes of ethics. Using examples from a range of countries and environments, contributions revolve around three key themes: data management and access; the role of stakeholders; and public education. We draw on our collective experiences to propose a range of improvements in how we collect, use, and share lidar data, and we argue that as lidar acquisitions mature we are well positioned to produce ethical, impactful, and reproducible research using the technique.