Drone With LiDAR Explores Mississippian Culture Settlement

Light Detection and Ranging technology revealed architectural details and topographic data on Raleigh Island. (University of Florida)

Using Drone-Mounted Lasers, Scientists Find Ancient Bead-Making, Island-Dwelling Community in Florida

by Brigit Katz/Smithsonian.com

Raleigh Island is a long, uninhabited stretch along Florida’s Gulf Coast, where vegetation grows thick and wild. But hundreds of years ago, before Europeans first arrived in North America, Raleigh Island was home to a thriving settlement of bead-makers—a hidden history that is only starting to come to light, thanks to pioneering laser technology.

Experts have long known that humans once lived on the island; according to the Guardian’s Victoria Bekiempis, artifacts were first discovered there in the early 1990s. But archaeologists were largely in the dark about the scope of the settlement, until a happy accident occurred in 2010. Researchers conducting environmental impact surveys in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill stumbled upon a complex of ring structures made of oyster shells—signs of a once large and active community.

Archaeologists were eager to learn more, but because the foliage on the island is so dense, conducting comprehensive ground surveys would have been difficult. So a team of researchers turned to a drone equipped with Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, a remote sensing method that uses a pulsed laser to create topographical maps……

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    • I have seen Siep (Serpent) Mound but my loyalties lie with Mound City. It was such a part of growing up for me. There are Mound Builder areas here in Michigan which I now pursue.

  1. This is wonderful stuff. I live near Cahokia (huge site mentioned in the article) and have visited the site. LiDAR and ground-penetrating radar are 2 tools that were unavailable back when I graduated with a BA in Archaeology. These newer tools are like cheating. I just might get inspired to go back to school…

  2. Yes, and I also recommend Graham Hancock’s book: America before, with the section of the Mississippi mound builders, their cultural/spiritual connection and vision with the after life journey with Ancient Egypt. He also mentions the mount builder in Ohio-the serpent mound, especially- and other US part. Despite the destruction, The US will still be able to restore some puzzle of our journeys to the America. And I have met good archeologists thinking rationally, outside the box and that current crumbling model imposed upon us.

    • I grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio….where you can find Mound City. Learned all about the mound builders as a child. Seip Mound is perhaps the most dramatic, but the Excavation of Mound City, just north of Chillicothe on rt. 104, on the Sciota River, yielded many eye-opening artifacts.