Minimal-invasive approaches in Norwegian Archaeology


Near-surface geophysical techniques have become an established and important part in archaeological research. The development of motorized devices during the last 15 years allows now for new fields of application, such as large-scale investigations of entire landscapes or the systematic implementation in cultural heritage management (CHM). Non-invasive techniques, however, are not to be used in isolation but must be regarded as one of many items in the archaeological toolbox, meant to be applied in a complementary and informed way. This obviously includes combining different geophysical techniques to target different proxies but should also involve invasive procedures such as targeted excavation, coring and sampling. This approach termed minimal-invasive not only maximizes information on the subsurface, but also enables an iterative feedback loop with the potential to enhance the overall quality of near-surface geophysical applications in archaeology. Since 2010, the department for cultural heritage management of the Vestfold County Council in Norway has been working together with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology and the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research to develop and promote the use of geophysical prospection in Norway. As a result of these efforts, Vestfold became the first Norwegian county to systematically implement near-surface geophysical methods into their CHM routines. In this paper, we will introduce the minimal-invasive approach used in Vestfold based on two different projects: Between 2011 and 2016, the archaeological landscape surrounding the Viking Age ship burial of Gokstad was investigated using non-invasive ground-penetrating radar, magnetic surveys and airborne laser scanning as well as invasive geological and sedimentological investigations. And in 2016/2017, the Intercity Nykirke – Barkåker project became the first large-scale infrastructure endeavor in Norway to apply ground penetrating radar as their primary investigation method within a two-step minimal-invasive process. We will discuss the benefits and limitations of using a minimal-invasive approach in Norwegian archaeology.