University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Pursuing the past: Current approaches to integrated geophysical surveys of Roman urban landscapes in the Mediterranean
Stephen Kay, Sophie Hay, Nicholas Crabb, Elizabeth Richley

Last modified: 2011-12-13


Since the establishment of a research collaboration between the British School at Rome and Archaeological Prospection Service of Southampton in 2001, approximately 60 separate geophysical surveys have been undertaken throughout the Mediterranean, the majority focusing upon Roman settlements. These surveys have invariably involved the application of a range of techniques, adapted according to the requirements of the individual site. The approach taken has differed from that of many surveys by recognizing that analysis of Roman urban sites is best served by employing a range of geophysical and archaeological techniques within an integrated archaeological strategy, rather than simply using geophysics in isolation. Whilst magnetometry has primarily been successfully applied to study large open areas, a different methodology has had to be defined in order to study similar sites in restricted urban contexts.

            The significant number of surveys that have now been undertaken allows for some important conclusions to be drawn regarding the application of geophysics for the assessment of a variety of Roman sites. It is important to understand site topography, site-formation processes and the character of the extant (or in process of excavation) archaeological remains, and how these will affect the survey results and our interpretation of them.

This paper will discuss the impact of combining magnetometry with resistivity, georadar, systematic surface collection, aerial photography and topographic survey. Each urban site raises a distinct archaeological challenge and it is contingent upon archaeologists to develop a strategy to extract the maximum information about the layout and character of buried remains. This paper will begin by exploring the results of some of these surveys, and then discuss some of the methodological and practical issues.


Geophysics; Georadar; Magnetometry; Archaeological survey