The Portuslimen Project. Geophysical Survey and Boreholes at Pozzuoli, the Bay of Naples

The Bay of Naples presents a bit of a conundrum when trying to understand the ancient port of Pozzuoli. The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD is well attested, but the upheaval and changes in the level of the terrain of the Campi Flegrei is less well known. Many of the port sites that have been surveyed for the Portuslimen represent geology of relatively stable form, with alluvial geomorphology affecting the development of the port sites and, eventually, leading to changes in how the sites related to their surrounding landscape (think about the prograding deltas of the Tiber at Portus, or at Ephesus). With Pozzuoli the changes in the terrain in the last 2000 years has led to some massive variations in the sea level relative to the ancient port, with the sea having submerged parts of the ancient port. In addition, development of the area, particularly after the unification of Italy in the latter half of the 19th century, makes the landscape a particularly challenging prospect in terms of understanding the extent of the ancient port. The site of the ancient harbour became the location for munitions factories and other industrial activity, under the development of Armstrong (see http://historicaleye.it/pozzuoli-dai-cantieri-armstrong-alla-breda-sofer/). The shells of the factories and warehouses still line the modern shoreline today, and make survey and excavation logistically difficult for a number of reasons.

The Bay of Naples looking from the Campi Flegrei towards Miseno and Ischia.

The Bay of Naples looking from the Campi Flegrei towards Miseno and Ischia.

In other parts of the town, archaeological remains are visible, including the amphitheatre and the amazing so-called Serapide, and these sites, together with the mapping of submerged structures, provides a broad layout of the ancient port. The objective of the Portuslimen, however, is to map the extent of buried archaeological remains along the edge of the modern shoreline, to better understand the layout of the port. These results can then be combined with the borehole data also collected by the project. The survey marks a collaboration with the archaeologists of Pozzuoli, led by Dott.ssa Costanza Gialanella of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli, and provides an unparalleled opportunity to use non-intrusive methods at the site.

In order to carry out the work, a team of surveyors travelled from the University of Southampton to undertake the survey. The team consisted of Diana Blumberg, Steve Guy-Gibbens, Tyra Standen and Peter Wheeler. In addition Nicolas Carayon and Ferreol Salomon of the Portuslimen team travelled out to supervise the borehole survey.

The so-called Serapide at the marina of Pozzuoli

The so-called Serapide at the marina of Pozzuoli

 

In terms of geophysical survey techniques, the particular methods presented an issue. Some of the survey areas presented volcanic sands, laden with magnetite, and others were formed from asphalt and cement with iron rebars, train lines, and other iron infrastructure. These all presented difficulties for magnetometry with our fluxgate gradiometer. In addition the insulating properties of the asphalt made Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) impossible (although with luck we may have results of some collaborative work using this technique to report on in the near future). This meant that the survey team had recourse to GPR. Fortunately the satellite coverage for the survey area was strong, and gridding out for the survey could be conducted using an RTK GPS.

Setting up the RTK GPS

Setting up the RTK GPS

 

Some of the iron infrastructure that made the survey difficult

Some of the iron infrastructure that made the survey difficult

The GPR survey was conducted using a Sensors and Software 500MHz antenna with Smartcart and odometer. The survey profiles were collected along 0.5m traverses, with traces of data collected at 0.05m intervals. The start and end locations of each traverse were recorded in the local grid coordinate system in a notebook, for entering into the software each evening with the data.

GPR and note-taking on site

GPR and note-taking on site

Lines in the sand - Peter Wheeler surveys the foreshore at Arco Felice

Lines in the sand – Peter Wheeler surveys the foreshore at Arco Felice

The GPR collected data across the areas of modern cement and industrial areas, but also across the beach at Arco Felice. The data were complemented by a series of boreholes conducted by Ferreol and Nicolas. The data from these will not only allow comparison between the sediments in the cores and the GPR, but will facilitate dating of material, and potentially develop our interpretations of the volcanic materials and archaeology of the port.

Processing of the results is ongoing, but hopefully this gives a flavour of the issues and problems encountered during the survey, and the methodological process applied at the site.

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THaWS 2016. A Late Start and Sediments Beyond the Temple of Ay and Horemheb

So another season of survey and augering is under way at Thebes. The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey has, for the past 5 years, been using geoarchaeological and geophysical survey to study the changing floodplain of the river Nile, and the dynamics between the ancient harbours and waterways and the Theban temple complexes on the West Bank and Luxor and Karnak temples. In 2015 the survey work focused on the areas around Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum, with Electrical Resistivity Tomography profiles and auger locations running from the edge of the floodplain to the modern course of the Nile. In addition an area survey was conducted over the mounds at Malqata, associated with the harbour of Birket Habu. This year the season is focussing its attention on the floodplain between the colossal seated statues of Amenhotep III and his huge ceremonial lake (Birket Habu), immediately to the east of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb.

 

Sunrise over the Nile floodplain as viewed from the West Bank

Sunrise over the Nile floodplain as viewed from the West Bank

 

After a slight delay at the start of the project for permits, the work commenced on 19th January. Reconnaissance of the area to the east of the temple, looking for a route across the floodplain for both ERT and auger locations, was conducted last autumn and walked over by the team as we waited for our paperwork to be completed.

The aim of the transect of boreholes (hand augering and a percussion coring) and geophysical survey (Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)) is to understand the geoarchaeological history of the floodplain in this area of Thebes. We are using our RTK GPS to establish the location of the ERT profiles and to survey in borehole locations during the course of the work.

Carolin Johansson (Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm) setting up the GPS base station

Carolin Johansson (Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm) setting up the GPS base station

 

Carolin conducting GPS survey along an ERT traverse

Carolin conducting GPS survey along an ERT traverse

 

As the ERT survey was set up and continued to collect data across the floodplain from west to east, the team also attempted some GPR. However, issues with the equipment meant that no survey could be completed, and this will have to wait until later in the season. The augering got off to a flying start, with boreholes starting immediately east of the temple of Ay and Horemheb and supported by the ERT profile data. The coring and hand augering both revealed the variation in the sediments from the desert edge, running east across the floodplain, with different depths of silts and sands.

 

Ben Pennington (University of Southampton) removing sediment from the auger head assisted by Mohammed

Ben Pennington (University of Southampton) removing sediment from the auger head assisted by Mohammed

 

Dominic Barker (University of Southampton) gets to grips with a corer sample

Dominic Barker (University of Southampton) gets to grips with a corer sample

 

Jan Peeters (Utrecht University) recording sediments from Auger site 71 in the West Bank floodplain with the Theban hills in the background and assisted by Moustapha (auger) and Hassan (sitting) and onlooked by Zazou, who is working on the ERT profile behind them

Jan Peeters (Utrecht University) recording sediments from Auger site 71 in the West Bank floodplain with the Theban hills in the background and assisted by Moustapha (auger) and Hassan (sitting) and onlooked by Zazou, who is working on the ERT profile behind them

 

Willem Toonen (Aberystwyth University) working at auger site 67 with Youssef and Ahmed in front of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb with Medinet Habu immediately south (in the background)

Willem Toonen (Aberystwyth University) working at auger site 67 with Youssef and Ahmed in front of the funerary temple of Ay and Horemheb with Medinet Habu immediately south (in the background)

 

The work with the augers was matched by the pace of the ERT, with resistivity data being collected along a traverse completed in four separate profiles, measuring over 2.7km in length. This traverse is located to complement the borehole data and the ERT data collected in the traverse to the east of the Ramesseum in 2014 and 2015, allowing comparison of the varying resistivity values from both locations.

 

Zazou, Ahmed, Reis Alaa and Sumara take a well-earned rest while the ERT collects data

Zazou, Ahmed, Reis Alaa and Sumara take a well-earned rest while the ERT collects data

 

As with many field projects, in some cases the work in the field marks only a part of the overall effort. Once the geophysical survey data is collected, and the auger samples are bagged or put into plastic tubes, the hard work of data processing and study of the augered samples begins. After a week of work, the whole team was called on to soak, sieve and pick through the sediments, weighing and measuring the different inclusions in the sediment to glean as much information about the nature and chronology of the floodplain sediments as possible. This data will be compared with the geophysics to help ground-truth the data and provide crucial information of the potential date of different deposits.

The preliminary data is already pointing to some interesting results on the deposition of sediments deposits, and their relationship with the West Bank monuments. There is still lots of processing and studying to be done!

 

Bird’s eye view of clasts from sieved samples drying and then being sorted from the borehole sediments

Bird’s eye view of clasts from sieved samples drying and then being sorted from the borehole sediments

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The Portuslimen Project. Geophysical Survey and Fieldwalking at Ephesus

One of the more constraining factors of geophysical survey in an archaeological context is the potential difficulty in dating or phasing anomalies in the data. Although hard science forms the main component of survey work, there is a large subjective element involved in the interpretation of geophysical survey data, which ultimately can decide the nature, function and phase of features. Our interpretation sometimes belies the complexity of the archaeological remains in question (issues relating to survey resolution and the nature of deposits can affect this) and this is particularly true of the different phases of construction and occupation at a site. Complementary information on the phases of deposits represented in geophysical survey data can be provided through surface collection and recording over the survey area, and this integrated approach to archaeological survey is particularly pertinent to the recent Portuslimen survey conducted at Ephesus.

In August and September of 2015 a small team of archaeologists from the University of Southampton travelled to Ephesus in Turkey, to take part in the season of fieldwork run by the Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut (ÖAI). The ÖAI has conducted archaeological research at Ephesus for 120 years (http://www.oeai.at/index.php/grabungsgeschichte.html ), and for the last 16 years has conducted geophysical survey across the site, with work directed by Dr Sirri Seren of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (https://www.zamg.ac.at/cms/en/news). The Portuslimen team were invited to look at some very specific areas of the ancient site and landscape, namely the areas of the inner and outer Roman harbours, and the surrounding landscape of the river. The aim of the survey was to add to the areas already surveyed by the ÖAI, and to address the development and possible phasing of the harbour complexes of ancient Ephesus. The team comprised the author, together with Dominic Barker, Ben Urmston, Jack Pink and Jack Frowde.

Panoramic view of the area of the outer harbour and river as seen from the promontory

Panoramic view of the area of the outer harbour and river as seen from the promontory

 

Magnetometry being undertaken at the inner harbour

Magnetometry being undertaken at the inner harbour

To address these aims the team utilised fluxgate gradiometers, with gridding out and topographic survey conducted using an RTK GPS. Magnetometry was used in a field to the east of the inner harbour of Ephesus, and in fields around the outer harbour and river channel, also on the promontory overlooking the outer harbour.

In addition Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) profiles were conducted at sites along the northern edge of the river channel, across the area of land between the outer harbour and river, and in the area of the floodplain to the north of the inner harbour. These were designed to assess the nature of the deeper sediments associated with the geoarchaeology of the landscape, for comparison with the borehole data collected by the University of Koln.

Although the geophysical survey techniques were deemed appropriate for the conditions of the site, the broad geographical range of the different survey areas,and the potential variations in phasing for the different results, presented the team with a problem; how to recognise the different periods of occupation in these areas, together with an idea of the character and function of many of the structures. To address these issues, fieldwalking was undertaken over each of the survey areas., utilising the grid set out for the geophysics, and using each of the survey markers as the central point for an area of surface material to be collected and recorded within a a 3m radius.

 

Set out of the survey grid using an RTK GPS

Set out of the survey grid using an RTK GPS

 

ERT survey to the north of the river channel

ERT survey to the north of the river channel

 

Surface collection to the north of the river channel, using the RTK GPS and note-taking

Surface collection to the north of the river channel, using the RTK GPS and note-taking

 

The method of sampling allowed collection of all pottery, with a record of presence and absence of CBM (? meaning )and building material. The collection of surface ceramics provides the diagnostic sherds necessary for establishing the type and chronology of the vessels, while its total collection over a small but standard sample area make it possible to calculate the count and weight of sherds and, thus, the potential ceramic density density in each area.

The results of the survey not only provided some excellent information about structures and port infrastructure in the different areas, but also provided some useful spot-dating of the potential phases of occupation of the areas. On the promontory overlooking the outer harbour a number of pit and gully features were found in the geophysical survey results, matching other surface evidence for Archaic settlement pre-dating the Roman harbour. The results of survey to the north and west of the outer harbour indicated large structures associated with the port, dating to the Roman and Late Antique periods. Finally the survey results to the north of the modern river channel detected structures and a possible canal that, when compared to the surface collection, seem to represent Late Roman and Byzantine phases of the port of Ephesus.

 

Location of surface collection points across the 2015 survey area

Location of surface collection points across the 2015 survey area

 

Roman amphora bases located to the west of the outer harbour

Roman amphora bases located to the west of the outer harbour

 

The results of the season are only preliminary, and further work needs to be undertaken on the data and at the site to fully understand the complexities of the changing harbours of Ephesus. However, a pattern is emerging which seems to indicate a gradual shift in the development of port infrastructure, with activity moving from the inner and outer harbours between the early Roman and Late Antique periods, to a later complex to the north of the modern river between the Late Antique and Byzantine periods. The evidence for pre-Roman occupation in the area is also of interest.

There are obvious caveats about the methodology that we have applied to the site, such as the depth of potential deposits and the nature of material exposed at the surface, which will ultimately affect the dating of material to particular periods of occupation. However, the combined strategy of surface collection and geophysical survey does provide us with a more nuanced data-set than with geophysics on their own, and has already started to raise interesting questions relating to the development and use of this fascinating port complex.

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The Portuslimen Project. Geophysical survey at Tarragona, and the constraints of modern urban areas

Over the past few months of field survey, work has swung around to a series of projects lined to Roman ports in the Mediterranean. In June and July I headed back for a season of excavations at Portus, and in August and September geophysical survey at the site of Ephesus in Turkey (more on this in a future post). In October and November work has commenced on a geophysical and topographic survey of the Roman port area of the town of Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain. The work, together with that of Ephesus, forms part of the Roman Meditteranean Ports (RoMP) project, or Portuslimen (http://portuslimen.eu/). A component of this project involves the survey of a number of port sites, to understand the form and extent of these sites, and help analyse the ways in which they may have functioned through time. The work at Tarragona is being conducted in collaboration with colleagues from l’Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC).

 

The modern port of Tarragona, with its harbour, docks and factories

The issue with Tarragona is that the development of the town and port spans from the pre-Roman period, to the establishment of the Roman town in the third century BC, to Late Roman and Visigothic settlement in the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries, and later Islamic influence. Over this time the town and its port expanded and contracted, and archaeological deposits were buried under fluvial deposits from the Francolí river to the west of the port. Later post-medieval expansion of the town, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries saw much of the Roman and later port built over, and a new harbour constructed over the remains of the ancient port. The aim of our survey is to attempt to locate significant structural remins of the Roman port and harbour through intrusive methods. The good news is that a number of areas in the city have been excavated in the past 40 years, which helps in the location of the survey to gain as much as possible from the efforts. The bad news is that, due to the modern town plan, many of the survey areas are constrained by modern buildings and infrastructure. Thus our work has to use some specific techniques to conduct survey in the areas that are available. This includes topographic survey and location of survey grids using RTK GPS and total station survey, and use of GPR and ERT along streets and in plazas to map buried remains.

Set up of the GPS and GPR by the University of Southampton team in the Placa dels Carros

Set up of the GPS and GPR by the University of Southampton team in the Placa dels Carros

 

The GPS base station collecting static data for the survey

The GPS base station collecting static data for the survey

 

Fortunately for the University of Southampton team, the open plazas of the town provided sufficient space for static data to be collected by the GPS base station, and for a series of preliminary stations to be established using the GPS. Where the streets became narrow a total station was used to establish further stations in a traverse around the port area of the town.

Geophysical survey s far has focused on 500MHz GPR, propagating 3-4m below the modern street level to find the buried archaeology. In some of the streets in the northern part of the port area, particularly along the roads close to the Roman baths and theatre a number of walls and other features are visible. As the survey progresses southwards, however, modern infrasructure such as manhole covers, and the nature of the made-up ground close  to the modern harbour, make the results more difficult to interpret. The restrictions in terms of spatial coverage have also provided a challenge in terms of data interpretation.

Total station survey in one of the streets of Tarragona

Total station survey in one of the streets of Tarragona

 

500MHz GPR survey in one of the plazas

500MHz GPR survey in one of the plazas

 

To better understand the geoarchaeology of the site we have been applying Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) to record both archaeology and deeper deposits in the town. The main constraint with this is that the paved areas of the town preclude the use of survey probes (these cannot be dug through cement and Tarmac). Thus we have had to adapt using a system of electrode copper conductors and a conductive gel. Most surfaces will allow an electrical current to be passed through them, but asphalt and Tarmac act as insulators, meaning that for the ERT to work long stretches of cement pavement need to be surveyed.

A conductor formed from crocodile clips, wire and pipe end copper usually used for plumbing.

A conductor formed from crocodile clips, wire and pipe end copper usually used for plumbing.

The ERT profile being conducted adjacent to the Roman theatre

The ERT profile being conducted adjacent to the Roman theatre

 

In spite of our initial misgivings, the conductors and gel, with the ERT equipment, have proved to work very well indeed. The profile alongside the Roman theatre has revealed a number of areas of walls and rubble aligned adjacent to the excavated theatre remains. The team hope to conduct a long profile of ERT in the southern part of the modern port which, together with the boreholes of Ferreol Salomon, will investigate the nature of the harbour deposits.

The survey work is being conducted until 15th November, and there are many features of the topography of the ancient harbour that remain to be discovered, including the line of the Roman seafront and mole.

The bay to the east of the port

The bay to the east of the port

 

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Between the Desert and the Nile. Theban Harbours and Waterscapes

The West Bank of Thebes

The West Bank of Thebes

Back in 2011 the Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (THaWS) started with a field season of geophysics. This Egypt Exploration Society project (www.ees.ac.uk), directed by Dr Angus Graham,  was established with the aim of using different techniques to study the settlements and temples on the east and west banks of the Nile, and how they relate to the changing floodplain and river. Unfortunately the season had to be aborted after the 25th January revolution, and the survey was postponed to the 2012 season, when the fieldwork progressed at a cracking pace.

After five years of the project a large quantity of survey data, together with sedimentary data from auger samples, has been collected and is pushing forward some tentative interpretations about the archaeology and geomorphology of the area. Fieldwork in areas as diverse as Malqata, Birket Habu and the floodplain in front of Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum has provided food for thought on the depth of ancient ground levels and the organisation of the waterways on the West Bank, with interesting results from some of the East Bank work, including Karnak.

For the 2015 season the fieldwork has shifted up a notch with a larger and more diverse team. The plan was to run different geophysical survey techniques, while also continuing the auger sample strategy and processing of samples from the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Work has very much focused on Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys on the West Bank, particularly in the area to the east of the Ramesseum heading up to the current course of the Nile, with Ginger Emery working on the instrument. This has been complemented by an intensive season of auger work conducted by Ben Pennington and Willem Toonen, to investigate changes in the sediments represented in the ERT.

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

The survey has allowed a solid dataset to be collected running from c.600m to the east of the Ramesseum all the way the the modern banks of the Nile, with the resistivity and auger data integrating to allow some more nuanced interpretations of the development of the floodplain and the presence of possible man-made canals to be ascertained. The work in this area relates closely to the function of temples further to the south between the Birket Habu and the Ramesseum.

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

This week we have focused the work in the area of Kom El Hetan. Previous seasons provided information on the axis of theTemple of Amenhotep and the possible presence of channels associated with the temple. The aim this week has been to expand on this information with more intensive ERT and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in the area.

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

Hopefully by the end of the week we will have a series of close (5m) profiles of ERT data to model, and GPR data at 0.5m intervals across the front of the Colossi, in the first court, and in the third court for comparison, with a second plan to conduct more GPR profiles in the fields to the south to detect the possible enclosure of the temple. It promises to be an exciting week.

There have been trials and tribulations in the fieldwork, including negotiations with landowners, and issues with the burning of sugar cane chaff during the first two weeks. There have also been compensations, not least in the form of tea and cake, the latter being provided by the wife of Sumara, one of our workmen.

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara's wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara’s wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

The fieldwork will be carrying on at Thebes until 1st April. However, results from the previous seasons of work are presented in the last three editions of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, and in other papers listed below. Happy reading!

 

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2012, The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey. Recent Fieldwork to Investigate the Canals and Harbours on the West and East Banks at Ancient Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. The Newsletter of the International Society for Archaeological Prospection 31, April 2012, 6-7.

Graham,A., Strutt, K., Hunter, M., Jones, S., Masson, A., Millett, M., Pennington, B. 2012, Reconstructing Landscapes and Waterscapes in Thebes, Egypt. In Journal for Ancient Studies eTopoi, 3, 135-142.

Graham, A., Strutt, K.D., Hunter, M. , Jones, S., Masson, A., Millet, M., and Pennington, B.T. 2012, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2012. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 98, 27-42.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2013, Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. In Egyptian Archaeology 43, Autumn 2013, 5-7.

Graham, A, Strutt, K., Emery, V.L., Jones, S. and Barker, D. 2014, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2013. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 99, 35-52.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. (forthcoming), Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. Egyptian Archaeology. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 100.

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Old Sarum Update

For the last few weeks a fair amount of preparation has been undertaken by various members of staff at the University of Southampton for a press release on the fieldwork conducted at Old Sarum (see previous blog post https://kdstrutt.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/in-the-castle-called-seresberi-old-sarum-and-a-new-survey-of-the-inner-and-outer-baileys/). Peter Franklin and colleagues at the press office have worked hard to produce the finished story, and today things finally came together with a bit of a whirlwind of media attention. The finds of the project to date illustrate the potential of non-intrusive archaeological methodologies to elucidate on the archaeology of a particular site or landscape, without harming the material culture and with some strong underlying scientific concepts on which to base  some degree of interpretation and narrative.

Greyscale image of the magnetometry from the south of the outer bailey (top) and the interpretation plot for the data overlaid on LiDAR for the area (© LiDAR data Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2014. All rights reserved.)

Greyscale image of the magnetometry from the south of the outer bailey (top) and the interpretation plot for the data overlaid on LiDAR for the area (© LiDAR data Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2014. All rights reserved.)

The step from geophysical survey data to coherent archaeological narrative is a big one, and one of the reasons that our interpretations to date err on the side of caution. What is apparent from the results is the urban plan of a substantial medieval city, and an array of different forms of structure and associated features in the outer bailey at Old Sarum. Hopefully the results and their wider dissemination at this stage will help to generate interest in the site, the methodology used, and the wider applications of these approaches to archaeological research.

To date the results have been reported in a number of sources. Online the sources include:

BBC News   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-30300837

The Independent   http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/archaeologists-find-vast-medieval-palace-buried-under-prehistoric-fortress-at-old-sarum-9898759.html

The Telegraph   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archaeology/11269753/Medieval-city-uncovered-by-archaeologists-and-not-a-spade-in-sight.html

More will hopefully follow tomorrow. Above all else the results show the pertinence of student involvement in research-led teaching, from developing an understanding of the archaeological and scientific theory for the work, to dealing with practical aspects of survey and undertaking fieldwork, to being involved in the processing and interpretation of data. The results at Old Sarum are testament to the peerless hard work and dedication of the students on the project, as well as the staff involved in their supervision.

Notes:

For images or for interviews with Kris Strutt, please contact Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton. Tel: 023 8059 5457 email: franklin@southampton.ac.uk

For more information about the Archaeological Prospection Service of Southampton (APSS) visit:http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/groups/archaeological_prospection_service_southampton.page

 

For more about the Old Sarum and Stratford-Sub-Castle Archaeological Survey Project visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/old_sarum_and_stratford_sub_castle.page

 

For more information about Archaeology at Southampton visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/index.page

For more information about English Heritage visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/weareconnected

 

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Abu Dhabi Islands Survey Part One

In October a survey team from the University of Southampton were involved in an archaeological and geophysical survey in collaboration with the Maritime Archaeology Stewardship Trust (MAST) and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture (ADTCA). Research was carried out on the islands of Sir Bani Yas and Marawah investigating a range of different sites. The ‘Ubaid settlements and archaeology on Marawah will be the subject of the next blog. The Bronze Age and pre-Islamic archaeology of Sir Bani Yas will be covered here.

Member of the survey team - Ahmad, Waleed and Abdallah - on the ferry heading for Sir Bani Yas

Member of the survey team – Ahmad, Waleed and Abdallah – on the ferry heading for Sir Bani Yas

The only way to arrive on Sir Bani Yas is by the ferry normally used for workers and tourists heading to the island. The journey of a few hours takes you to an island some 11km across, used as a nature reserve to attract tourists to the area. As with many of the islands along the coast of the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, archaeological remains on Sir Bani Yas include Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements, and sites of pre-Islamic and Islamic date. The 2014 season of work was used to record archaeological sites across the island using handheld GPS, for comparison with the resords of the Abu Dhabi Islands Survey (ADIAS) database fro mthe 1990s. In addition geophysical survey of two of the main sites was undertaken; at a Bronze Age site close to the island’s airport, and at the Eastern or Nestorian church site on the eastern side of the island.

Discussing the survey strategy for the Nestorian church site

Discussing the survey strategy for the Nestorian church site

Excavations of the church, now under protective shelter

Excavations of the church, now under protective shelter

The central area of the Nestorian church site, comprising the church and some possible lodgings, have already been excavated and rendered for 3D modelling, and a video covering the site can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyaTeoCmuLM. The purpose of the geophysical survey was to investigate the possibility of buried structures associated with the church using GPR and magnetometry.

GPR survey under way with Chris Healey and Waleed

GPR survey under way with Chris Healey and Waleed

Jack Hill getting to grips with the magnetometry

Jack Hill getting to grips with the magnetometry

The survey results indicated that the area to the south of the church is devoid of structural remains. However, the areas to the north and north-west give evidence of a continuation of structures, with a possible small courtyard to the west of the entrance to the church. In fact the tooography of the site beyond the modern enclosure suggests the extension of the site northwards, with pottery to the north and the location of a possible courtyard house downslope to the north.

Gridding our using RTK GPS

Gridding out using RTK GPS

In addition to the Nestorian church, a Bronze Age site was also surveyed using GPR and magnetometry. The site was thought to be a possible tomb, although evidence of bloom or slag on the survey may indicate that it is a working site of some description. Evidence of a possible kerb along one edge is plausible.

Jack Hill carrying out GPR survey on the Bronze Age site

Jack Hill carrying out GPR survey on the Bronze Age site

GPR and magnetometer survey were carried out over the area. We also conducted some photography for rectification, usig a series of markers and a monopod with DSLR camera. The plan was to produce a topographic model and plan of the visible stones of the site on the surface, and compare these with the results of the geophysical survey.

 

One of the monopod photographs for rectification

One of the monopod photographs for rectification

Detail of the GPR survey results

Detail of the GPR survey results

The survey results indicated a sub-circular stone structure, some 6m across, with a further possible working area to the south and west, and gullies or small ditches enclosing the features. We still need to map the results with the plot of stones on the surface to fully understand the nature of the site, however, it is looking more like a possible prehistoric working site, possibly for smelting copper.

The survey results from Sir Bani Yas really illustrated the potential of the archaeology of the island, and the geophysics together with the mapping of the sites suggests some possible outlets for future research. For those interested in the prehistory of the Abu Dhabi islands, however, the work on Marawah provides a wonderful example of the ‘Ubaid Neolithic in this area, more on that in the next blog!

Sunrise over the lagoons along the eastern side of Sir Bani Yas

Sunrise over the lagoons along the eastern side of Sir Bani Yas

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