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Geophysical Surveying And Its Role In Archaeology

If history is something that sparks your interest and you would like to learn more about the past, perhaps you are considering a career as an archaeologist. The science of archaeology involves studying the past to learn more about the history of the earth, animals and people, and land surveying is one of the primary methods that are used to collect information. When training to become an archaeologist, a major focus of your studies will be learning about different types of surveys.

Of all of the different type of land surveys, geophysical surveying is perhaps one of the most useful in archaeology. This type of land surveying has had a major impact on this science and without it, archaeologist would likely not know have of what they know today. 

What is geophysical surveying? How did it come to be? Here is a look at the history of this very important part of archaeology.

A Brief History of Geophysical Surveying

Prior to World War I, in order to locate landmarks and other objects, archaeologists could only rely on searching and digging. While this method did prove to be effective in some cases, as it unearthed several structures and landmarks from ancient civilizations, it wasn't nearly effective enough.

During World War I, aerial photographs revealed that troops could see what lied behind enemy lines, which proved to be quite beneficial. Soon after the war, aerial photographs taken over England revealed ruins of ancient Roman structures, which were otherwise lost in the pastures that grew over them. Starting in about the 1930s, archaeologists realized the amazing benefits of aerial photography for this science.

As time advanced, so did the methods used for aerial photography. Basic aerial photographs, or resistivity surveys, were initially used, which turned to magnetic surveys in the 1950s, which have now been developed into high-resolution seismic, infrared imagery, as well as radar from outer space that is used today.  This modern form of geophysical survey has had a huge impact on archaeology and has allowed for great advances in this science.

Benefits of Geophysical Surveying

There are several benefits of modern geophysical surveying. It has allowed for three-dimensional views of various sites. It can also allow archaeologists to view the resources of human culture in a specific area. It can be used to detect soil that has been disturbed by burials. It can pinpoint openings in caves or pyramids. It can do all of this without having to disturb the land or a historic site.

How Geophysical Surveying Has Been Used

This type of surveying has been used in a variety of capacities in archaeology. Some of the most notable uses include:

  • Looking for cavities that have been hidden in the Pyramids of Giza
  • Searching for caves within Victoria Peak in New Mexico
  • Locating ancient graves
  • Mapping Native American Villages

It's plain to see how geophysical surveying has impacted the world of archaeology and if you choose to go into this field, you will certainly learn a great deal about this type of land surveying. To learn more, contact a company like Community Sciences Corporation.


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