Images of the invisible-prospection methods for the documentation of threatened archaeological sites


To understand the development of prehistoric cultural and economic activities, archaeologists try to obtain as much relevant information as possible. For this purpose, large numbers of similar sites must be identified, usually by non-destructive prospection methods such as aerial photography and geophysical prospection. Aerial archaeology is most effective in locating sites and the use of digital photogrammetry provides maps with high accuracy. For geophysical prospection mainly geomagnetic and geoelectrical methods or the ground-penetrating radar method are used. Near-surface measurements of the respective contrasts within physical properties of the archaeological structures and the surrounding material allows detailed mapping of the inner structures of the sites investigated. Applying specially developed wheeled instrumentation, high-resolution magnetic surveys can be carried out in a standard raster of 0.125×0.5 m covering up to 5 ha per day. Measurements of ground resistivity or radar surveys in a raster of 0.5 or 0.5×0.05 m, respectively, are used to gain information on archaeological structures and on the main stratigraphic sequence of sites covering up to 0.5 ha per day. Data on intensities of the Earth’s magnetic field, apparent resistivities of the ground or amplitudinal information of radar reflections are processed using a digital image processing technique to visualize the otherwise invisible archaeological structures or monuments buried in the ground. Archaeological interpretation, in the sense of detecting, mapping and describing the archaeological structures, is done using GIS technology by combining all relevant prospection data. As most of the Middle European archaeological heritage is under a massive threat of destruction, dramatically accelerated by intensive agriculture or industrial transformation of the landscape, the prospection techniques presented here represent an approach towards an efficient documentation of the disappearing remains of our ancestors.