The Archaeological Applications of Surveying Services

Archaeology is actually a slow-moving operation. You can begin excavating a ditch anywhere you want to but there’s no guarantee that even after a long time of meticulous excavation you will find anything. Archaeological surveys will help to cut down the field (quite literally if it’s a rural area) and offer a cost effective first assessment of a potential place for excavation.

The assessment of a rural location for archaeological excavation can include a seriously large spot. Other kinds of surveying the place might take great deals of time if they’re to cover such distances. Archaeological surveys, in contrast, are low cost. Rural sites can certainly be full of archaeological potential and the geophysical techniques of an archaeological survey may be used to identify possible targets for excavation without the need for exploratory holes to be dug. The targets that are discovered could include sites of habitation or settlement, or signs of prior agricultural activity such as post holes, pits, field systems and enclosures. Relatively modern sites may possibly show signs of industrial activity that might form similarly interesting targets for excavation (e.g. kilns and other industrial sites). Buried megaliths are common target; they can be evidence of complexes or religious rituals.

Although they rarely cover the same open distances as rural surveys, archaeological surveys in urban environments can present their own challenges. The ground in a town or city is obviously far more likely to have been turned over or excavated in recent years than the ground in a field or meadow. As a result, any deposits which are still there to be found will likely be at a much greater depth; below the maximum depth of any previous excavations. Anyone conducting a geophysical survey is going to have to compensate for all of these factors. As well as the obvious ground level disruption, surveys have to deal with below surface installations which may cause interference or problems (e.g. utilities and the Tube). Studying the layers of rock is going to be made more difficult by the disruption previous work has inflicted. In Britain, most urban areas have a long history of habitation; in places such as London and Chester, stretching back as far as 2000 years or more. For that reason, the targets uncovered by an archaeological survey are likely to be related to previous industrial activity or habitation (e.g. building foundations, former road surfaces, town ditches).

Archaeological surveys will have their part to play in exploring the history of structures and not just the soil on which they’re located. Surveys of churches are likely to find proof of prior burials on the site (e.g. tombs, graves, vaults, cists). Surveys conducted around the environs of other ancient buildings (e.g. historic manor houses, castles, forts) typically turn up proof of how the location was once inhabited; the foundations of past structures on that site, profiles of now-filled in moats, and historic gardens are typical discoveries.

SUMO Services’s range of near surface geophysical surveys has a number of archaeological applications. They can help if you’re applying for planning permission on a brown or green field site.

Rural archaeological surveys by SUMO

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