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The electrical resistivity of buried archaeological remains

English title The electrical resistivity of buried archaeological remains
Applicant Germann Peter Fritz
Number 117971
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Other disciplines of Earth Sciences
Start/End 01.11.2007 - 31.10.2009
Approved amount 205'217.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Other disciplines of Earth Sciences

Keywords (8)

geophysics; electrical resistivity; soil; archaeology; survey; remote sensing; geoarchaeology; numerical modelling

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Archaeologists are able to map buried remains using geophysical methods. Thus buried walls and ditches can be detected by measuring changes in soil electrical resistance. This method is widely used because it can be quick, cheap, non-destructive and effective. Moreover, an adaptation can be used to measure the vertical distribution of electrical resistance and thus to map buried remains in 3-dimensions.

Electrical resistance survey has two weaknesses:

1) It often fails to detect remains, or detects them only poorly. We understand the reasons for this only in part and thus we cannot accurately predict where ER survey will be useful or is best avoided.

2) We do not know enough about the processes which create ER distributions in remains to interpret ER maps and sections in detail - in other words to give them precise archaeological, not just geophysical meaning. We do know, however, that simplistic correlations of ER variations with strata are misleading.

Recent advances in our understanding of the fine details of buried archaeological strata, and into the electrical properties of soil, may allow us to tackle these problems by greatly improving our models of ER in archaeological remains.

This project will explore the methods which might be used to improve our ER models of remains and will try to reach preliminary conclusions about whether this can be achieved. It will do this by a combination of field ER survey and site monitoring, excavation, sampling, laboratory analyses and subsequent numerical modelling. It is intended that further research will then apply the insights gained from this first project to a wide variety of sites to test their validity and expand our knowledge of site geophysical behaviours.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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