This article presents a novel deep learning method for semi-automated detection of historic mining pits using aerial LiDAR data. The recent emergence of national scale remotely sensed datasets has created the potential to greatly increase the rate of analysis and recording of cultural heritage sites. However, the time and resources required to process these datasets in traditional desktop surveys presents a near insurmountable challenge. The use of artificial intelligence to carry out preliminary processing of vast areas could enable experts to prioritize their prospection focus; however, success so far has been hindered by the lack of large training datasets in this field. This study develops an innovative transfer learning approach, utilizing a deep convolutional neural network initially trained on Lunar LiDAR datasets and reapplied here in an archaeological context. Recall rates of 80% and 83% were obtained on the 0.5 m and 0.25 m resolution datasets respectively, with false positive rates maintained below 20%. These results are state of the art and demonstrate that this model is an efficient, effective tool for semi-automated object detection for this type of archaeological objects. Further tests indicated strong potential for detection of other types of archaeological objects when trained accordingly.
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