What is Archaeological Mapping

Archaeology has come a long way over the past century. New techniques, and the emphasis on how research is conducted has lead to less invasive procedures. These are designed to preserve historic sites and eliminate more destructive methods while still recording vital historical and archaeological data. Geophysical methods that are used in archaeological mapping include ground penetrating radar, magnetrometry, resistivity, and conductivity.

Ground penetrating radar allows the researcher to see what is beneath the surface of the earth without disturbing the ground itself. Using electromagnetic radiation, detects the reflected signals from structures beneath the surface of the earth and records them so that it is possible to detect objects, and even entire structures that have been buried. This is important since without this important tool, unnecessary destruction of the terrain might result in an effect to locate a specific site.

Magnetrometry is a method of detecting iron or steel objects in the earth as depths that can reach twenty five feet or more. The magnetometer measures the size and the depth of the object by registering the strength of the frequency or disturbance in the earth’s field. Artifacts associated with specific archaeological sites, or that lead to these sites, are often discovered using this technique.

Resistivity is simply the concept of passing electricity through the soil to determine where depressions, ditches, and cavities may be located beneath the earth’s surface. Since these are likely to contain more moisture than the surrounding terrain, they will display less resistance to the electrical current. Conductivity meters respond to metallic objects beneath the ground, which may or may not benefit the archaeologist. These work on much the same principle as the resistivity device, however, they can be  used in applications where a resistance meter cannot be used.

And yet another mapping technique, involves  aerial photography which has been vital in locating and mapping remote areas.

Thanks to the non invasive methods of archaeological mapping, less time is wasted during  investigations, and much less terrain is disturbed. By precise locating of specific sites, the archaeologist has a better idea of where to begin the dig, and what to expect. This is not only a less damaging technique to any particular area, it is overall a much more environmentally friendly form of archaeology. In an era where every aspect of the work site is taken into consideration, from the land to the emotional concerns of those who are native to the area, this is the most responsible system, and falls under the code of ethics recommended for archaeologists worldwide.