Geospatial Archaeology: LiDAR for hidden feature identification of
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Resources
Many generations of indigenous trails through the forests of eastern Texas were utilized by early European explorers. The first road through Texas, El Camino Real de Los Tejas, utilized portions of these early trails and became modified through heavy use and the expansions and improvements needed to accommodate easy passage of European horses and carts and finally the heavy wagons of Anglo-American settlers.
Composed of physical disturbances, the archaeological record at the landscape level is at best an incomplete catalog of the interactions of human activity and the natural world. A forested environment obscures surface features of the archaeological record; however, the capture and subsequent analysis of LiDAR is a cost effective method of reducing an area of interest. Additionally, a GIS geodatabase model design framework for managing archaeological data with physical landscape data has been created to aid in the identification of hidden archaeological features. When combined with the analysis of LiDAR point clouds, before the removal of the biomass for a bare earth product, a robust dataset for evaluating the landscape offers a unique spatially responsive perspective allowing for an integrated study of the landscape forces influencing the selection of preferred 17th and 18th century Spanish road locations.
Due to its historical and cultural significance, El Camino Real de los Tejas was designated as a National Historic Trail in 2004, and under the law, efforts are underway to identify all significant natural, historical, and cultural resources of the Trail by applying geospatial technology for integrating historical documents, empirical archaeological surveys, and located trail attributes into a geodatabase design that has proven that the landscape forces influencing the selection of a preferred Spanish road location can be concluded, resulting in the identification of additional existing trail segments.