Methodological Maturity of Airborne LiDAR in Archaeology - Pilot Project (MALiAp)

Basic Info


Open Open LiDAR Toolbox is a QGIS plug-in for one-step-processing of airborne LiDAR data from point cloud to LiDAR visualisations. The required input is an unclassified point cloud in LAZ/LAS format and the tool returns outputs needed for interpretative mapping of archaeological features. In addition, several other tools are available for multi-step data processing. The tools are optimised for archaeology, but have a broader application for anyone primarily interested in visual inspection of airborne LiDAR, e.g., topographic mapping. List of tools: * 0NE (One-step- processing); * Classify LAS/LAZ; * Create base data; * DFM confidence map; * Hybrid interpolation; * Visualisations (from DFM).

The use of airborne LiDAR in archaeology has produced an unprecedented amount of new data in the last few years. Airborne LiDAR is the only remote sensing technique that enables detecting surface with high precision even in the forests. This data enables archaeological interpretation of often minuscule surface anomalies that are revealing of e.g. buried settlements or entire arcchaeological landscapes and ancient pathways. But the benefits for archaeology as a discipline remain limited. To remedy this, airborne LiDAR must evolve from a specialist discipline within archaeology into a background topic of all archaeology. The start of this process is timely since the external obstacles – foremost unavailability of free or cheap data – have been overcome recently. However, three key bottlenecks internal to archaeology have been identified:
(i) the lack of integrated research,
(ii) the lack of suitable publications, and
(iii) insufficient understanding of the method on the part of non-specialists.

The original ERC-CoG project proposal MALiA aimed to directly address these issues by
(i) implementing three integrated research case studies,
(ii) launching a publishing platform that will enable and encourage timely dissemination of aLiDAR-derived archaeological interpretation and
(iii) setting up a network for training non-specialists in integrating aLiDAR-derived archaeological interpretation into research.

Knežak, Notranjska

The aim of this modified project MALiAp is to be a pilot project by implementing a selected task that will lead towards achieving the goals of the original project proposal. Specifically, the MALiAp's goal is to (i) implement one integrated research case study. This particular goal has been selected for two reasons.
Firstly, it can be implemented independently of other activities proposed in the original project without any negative effects on the research quality.
Secondly, it will demonstrate the ability to conduct ground-breaking research which will eliminate the main deficit highlighted by reviewers of the original proposal.

These case study selected will be based on the archaeological interpretation of 400 sq. km of airborne LiDAR data in the Notranjska and Karst regions. The true potential of this data is currently hindered by the sheer quantity: based on sample areas there is estimated 125,000 archaeological features in the entire Notranjska and Karst regions. This potential will be unlocked for archaeology by the MALiAp project.

Research Team

  • Benjamin Štular; team leader
  • Žiga Kokalj; technical support for archaeological interpretation of aerial laser scanning data, technical support for the production of the final publication
  • Edisa Lozić; technical support for archaeological interpretation of aerial laser scanning data, technical support for the production of the final publication
  • Mateja Belak; data support for archaeological interpretation of lidar data (ARKAS, analysis of scientific and expert literature), technical support for the production of the final publication, design and maintenance of the project website
  • Tilen Podobnik; archeological field survey in support of archaeological interpretation of lidar data



We are co-editing a Special Issue in the peer-review and open-access journal "Remote Sensing" (ISSN 2072-4292;; IF 4.509) titled Geocomputation Using Remote Sensing Data for Landscape Archaeology.

Project steps


Visualisation for archaeological topography (VAT General) of Slovenia's lidar data:
Online Map Viewer:

Source: Kokalj, Žiga, and Maja Somrak. 2019. Why Not a Single Image? Combining Visualizations to Facilitate Fieldwork and On-Screen Mapping. Remote Sensing 11 (7): 747.