Tag Archives: geophysics

Just two more days

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

I did consider using antepenultimate again, but I thought you might think me pretentious…

Everyone worked extremely hard today.  Mike and Jim on the GPR finished yesterday’s block and managed another 40x40m grid square.  No easy task over the long grass and thistles.  Ruth, Dave and Julia completed five earth resistance squares, including two that had to be done in two parts and joined together in the software later due to an inconvenient hedge!  Good job everybody, and many thanks.

Here is the Earth Resistance survey, both normal, high-pass filtered, and the magnetometry data from the same area.

Fig. 1: the Earth Resistance data at the end of day 16.

Fig. 2: the Earth Resistance data at the end of day 16, high pass filtered.

Fig. 3: the magnetometry data for the area shown in Figs. 1 and 2.

I hate to say it, but our five squares, including the two annoying partials, appear to lie between the buildings along the road to the north of the hedge line, and to the north of the buildings we found yesterday. We do, however, have a nice tidy area surveyed now.  We couldn’t have left quite such a silly hole in our survey data.  Tomorrow we head north to survey along the northern edge of the block we did last year.

The first block of GPR data from today was a continuation of yesterday’s

Fig. 4: the GPR time slices from the block completed on day 16.

Nothing very exciting jumps out from the plots, although there are some things to check out.  Slice 6 (second from top on left) has a strange upside-down M shaped feature (in black) and slice 8 (bottom-left) has something semi- or sub-circular near the northern edge.

How about the second block?

Fig. 5: the GPR time slices from the second block completed on Day 16.

Not a great deal there either.  Sorry guys!

Tomorrow sees the GPR crew filling-in an odd gap between last year’s survey and this years.  The plus side is that the mag shows lots of buildings, so tomorrow’s results ought to be much more interesting!

Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard in the sun today.  Just two more days.

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Just in time

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

Not long after we arrived home after a busy week on site, the heavens opened. We’ve had 7.2mm of rain in the last 24 hours. Hopefully, not enough to create problems with the Earth Resistance survey, unlike the deluge we had the other week.

Mike Smith sent me this entertaining picture.

Fig. 1: Red Flag © Mike Smith.

The Earth Resistance meter was manned by Ellen, Pauline, Graham and Fergus (CAGG’s mascot).  They completed an excellent seven 20x20m grid squares including two partials with a big oak tree in the middle.  Figs. 2 and 3 show the data “normally” and high-pass filtered.

Fig. 2: the Earth Resistance survey.

Fig. 3: the Earth Resistance survey, high-pass filtered.

The main feature of interest in the new area is the nice building in the top left-hand corner of the plot.  The apsidal end of a room facing NE shows especially clearly.  This building was known previously, partly from an aerial photograph taken in 1977 and partly from the English Heritage survey undertaken in 2000.  We have much more of it, however.  The buildings also show nicely in the mag data (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: the magnetometry data for the area of the Earth Resistance survey.

We will fill in the odd missing squares on Wednesday.

The GPR was in the deep south of the Gorhambury side of the town, up on the hill near the King Harry Lane roundabout with marvellous views down across the theatre and the River Ver with the fields of ripe wheat on the opposite hill slope.  That is after you have caught your breath…

The GPR team completed the block I was hoping to get done, and started on the next one slated for Wednesday. Good job!  Here is the composite of six time slices (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: The GPR time slices 3 to 8. See labels for times and approximate depths.

Slice 4 (Fig. 5, top right) appears to show a wall running NNW–SSE with a rounded corner.  Here it is on Google Earth.

Fig. 6: time slice 4.

Slice 6 (Fig. 5, middle right, and Fig. 7) starts to show a clear building in the NE corner. This is supposed to be along a road which runs approximately parallel to the modern road, but which I cannot see in the geophysical data. The wall seen in the previous image is still visible on the northern side but does not show on the west.

Fig. 7: time slice 6.

Slice 8 (Fig. 5, bottom right and Fig. 8) shows the wall again on the western side as well as the northern.  Curiously, the corner appears different. Comparison to the mag data (Fig. 9) is informative.

Fig. 8: time slice 8.

Fig. 9: the mag data in the area of the GPR survey.

The line of the wall is clearly following the magnetic anomaly in this area, with two large circular anomalies on the corner.  I had thought the anomaly was a ditch, but now I am less sure.  It is clearer to see the relationship if one traces over the wall line from slice 8 (Fig. 10).

Fig. 10: the mag data showing the wall line from GPR time slice 10 marked in yellow.

The differences in the corner can be seen if one then looks at slice 4 with the wall line from slice 8 marked (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11: the wall line from slice 8 marked on slice 4.

As can be seen from Fig. 11 the wall lines match perfectly apart from the corner.  Was it rebuilt at some point, or do the reflections in slice 4 represent some wall collapse?  I’ll need to examine the radargrams carefully to decide what is happening.

The ditches are marked on the “Urban Archaeological Database”.  Isobel Thompson informs me that they have been interpreted as field boundaries for “Little Wynyards” in the 17th century.  Perhaps a vinyard? As Isobel points out, there are the Vintry Gardens near the abbey which are in a walled enclosure.  Just one more avenue of research to pursue to be able to interpret our complex data set.

Many thanks to Pauline, Ellen, Graham, Mike, Jim and Nigel for all their help. We’ll be back on Wednesday for the final week.  Doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself!

Sawtooth Sunday

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

Today saw the GPR team doing the sawtooth edges of the field. A bit fiddly to do, but very fiddly to survey-in and process.  I have only processed one block of the three, I’ll work on the others tomorrow and also start joining the various blocks together into one big survey.  The  Resistance team also managed a very respectable six grid squares, including some that covered the east wing of the “House on the Hill”, otherwise known as Insula XXVI Building 2 or even Niblett and Thompson Monument 445…  This building was first published by Corder in 1941 and has only been seen through aerial photographs until we came on the scene.

First the underlying magnetometry data from 2015.

Fig. 1: the magnetometry data underlying the 2017 Earth Resistance survey.

As can be seen from Fig. 1 we can see the building quite clearly in the mag data as a series of white (low magnetism) lines.  The east wing does not show very clearly.

Fig. 2: the Earth Resistance survey.

The results from the Earth Resistance survey show the building beautifully.  The image has been high-pass filtered.  The large room on the east wing shows very clearly, although the “apse” on the west wall of it is still a little unclear.  It looks like a large dining room.

Let’s look at the 2015 and the accidental 2017 GPR surveys.

Fig. 3: the 2015 survey of the “House on the Hill”.

The slice from the 2015 survey (Fig. 3) shows some of the detail more clearly than the Earth Resistance survey, and some less so.  The other details may show more clearly in other slices and I’ll reprocess the data in due course. It will be interesting to see what the Resistance survey makes of the building to the far east of the GPR data.

Fig. 4: The 2017 GPR survey overlain on the other data.

Just for completeness sake, here is one of the time slices from the 2017 survey (Fig. 4).

Further south (and further up the hill!), the team completed a block to the south of the nice building we saw yesterday.  The new software can create an image with all the slices on.

Fig. 5: slices 3 to 10 of the day 4, block 3, GPR data.

This is useful to be able to see how the details change as one goes deeper.  (Take the depths given with a pinch of salt as 0.09m/ns is just a guess at the moment.)

The next series of images shows slices 4-8 from the above plotted next to yesterday’s building (just yesterday’s slice 5). The joins between blocks will improve when I process it all as one big survey.

Fig. 6: slice 4 (see Fig. 5 for depths).

Fig. 7: slice 5 (see Fig. 5 for depths).

Fig. 8: slice 6 (see Fig. 5 for depths).

Fig. 9: slice 7 (see Fig. 5 for depths).

Fig. 10: slice 8 (see Fig. 5 for depths).

As can be seen there are various buildings in this area.  It looks like there might be another small town house just the SW of the one we saw yesterday.  There is also something quite large parallel to the SW-NE road which shows in the deeper slices.  The large ditch which runs parallel to that building, just to the west which can be seen in the mag data, shows as a whiter line of “no reflections” in the GPR data.  There is quite a lot going on in this little block of data.

Tomorrow I will work on the other blocks and try to integrate the first four days of survey.  We are not out on site again until Wednesday.

Many thanks to Ellen, Jim, Mike, Graham, Nigel, David and Pauline for all their hard work, and especially to Mike, Jim and Ellen for transporting all the equipment as well as myself!

 

Batford Mill

I have a number of small surveys which remain unreported that I need to catch-up on, and so here is the first of them.

Earlier in the year, Mike Smith and I assisted Alex Thomas (University of Bristol) in undertaking a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of land lying to the north of the B653 at Batford, Harpenden, Hertfordshire (TL 148150, Fig. 1). The survey was undertaken over the weekend of 2nd/3rd April 2016. Earth resistance and magnetometry surveys had been undertaken in the area previously.

Fig. 1: Location of the site at Batford.

Fig. 1: Location of the site at Batford.

The underlying geology of the site is Lewes Nodular Chalk formation overlain in places by the Kesgrave Catchment Subgroup sand and gravel.

A Mala GPR with a 450mhz antenna was used, identical to the one CAGG borrow from SEAHA. The survey transects were at a 0.5m spacing collected in a zig-zag fashion. The survey started in the NE corner and proceeded east-west. Radar pulses were set for 0.05m intervals with a time-window of 73ns. The newer Mala systems do not allow manual selection of sample numbers which are determined by the machine, in this case 376 samples per trace.

For the amplitude slices presented here, as usual, the software system developed by Jeff Lucius and Larry Conyers was used (http://www.gpr-archaeology.com/software/). This necessitates the conversion of the Mala rd3 files into GSSI dzt files using the companion conversion program.

For this posting, the slices were 3ns in thickness starting at 3.5ns  From these, it appears that the second slice, 6.5–9.5ns represents the immediate ground surface. This agrees with the estimate of the first reflection from the individual radargrams at about 8ns as examined using RadExplorer. Beyond slice 7 (>24.5ns) the signal has completely attenuated. This means that all the usable returns lie in the band between c.6.5 and 24.5ns. This is not unusual for Hertfordshire where the clay soils do not allow for the GPR surveys to penetrate particularly deeply.

As with most of the GPR surveys reported in this blog, the numerical output from that software was turned into images using Surfer v.8. Kriging was used to interpolate the values into a 0.1 x 0.1m grid. The resulting images where then imported into Google Earth.

Six amplitude maps or `time slice’ maps were produced and are shown in Figures 2–7. The topmost map (Fig. 2) shows two strong reflections to the north-east and the south. The second map (Fig. 3), which represents the 9.5–12.5ns range, has the clearest set of features. A number of long linear features are visible, two of which I have labelled A and B. There is a odd-looking curved linear feature with two parallel lines, labelled C, into which a pair of parallel lines cuts, labelled D. Further fainter linear features can be seen, such as those at E.

slice-2

Fig. 2: Time slice 2 (6.5–9.5ns).

Time slice 3 (9.5–12.5ns).

Fig. 3: Time slice 3 (9.5–12.5ns).

The third map (Fig. 4) has fewer clear features, most of which are probably `echoes’ of the features seen in the previous map. The next three maps (Figs. 5–7) have successively fewer features in them, none of which are especially clear. By the last map, the GPR signal has largely attenuated and little can be seen. At best, we are getting a depth penetration of about a meter, probably somewhat less.

Fig. 4: Time slice 4 (12.5–15.5ns).

Fig. 4: Time slice 4 (12.5–15.5ns).

Fig. 5: Time slice 5 (15.5–18.5ns).

Fig. 5: Time slice 5 (15.5–18.5ns).

Fig. 6: Time slice 6 (18.5–21.5ns).

Fig. 6: Time slice 6 (18.5–21.5ns).

Fig. 7: Time slice 7 (21.5–24.5ns).

Fig. 7: Time slice 7 (21.5–24.5ns).

The question arises, therefore, as to what the long linear features may be. If Fig. 3A is a wall, it would be at least 35m long, and Fig. 3B would be at least 55m long. One possibility is that they represent old field boundaries. Looking at the 1898 OS map (Fig. 8), there is nothing to suggest an origin for those features. The 1799, map now in the Westminster Abbey Muniments Room does, however, show a field boundary behind some buildings to the north of the road. A crude overlay of an extract of this map (Fig. 9) on the Google Earth image with the GPR data, shows a remarkably good correlation between the field boundary and the one of the linear features (Fig. 3A).

Fig 8: The survey overlain on the 1898 OS map.

Fig 8: The survey overlain on the 1898 OS map.

Fig. 9: The 1799 Westminster Abbey map overlain on the Google Earth image.  Westminster Abbey map used with permission.

Fig. 9: The 1799 Westminster Abbey map overlain on the Google Earth image.

The origins of the curved and parallel linear features can be seen if one takes into account the location of the machine-dug test trench marked in Figure 10.  These parallel lines, only some 1.8m apart, represent areas of soil compression from the machine used in the excavation of the test trench.  Examination of one of the radargrams (Fig. 11) would seem to confirm this.  The origin of the reflections, marked with blue arrows, occurs at the very surface and is highly suggestive of compression rather than construction.

Fig. 10. Slice 2 showing the location of the machine dug test hole.

Fig. 10. Slice 2 showing the location of the machine dug test hole.

Fig. 11: Radargram showing areas of surface compression.

Fig. 11: Radargram showing areas of surface compression.

The survey results appear to be largely connected to (a) earlier agricultural use of the land in the form of hedgerows and so forth or (b) the recent impact of the excavation of the test trench.  It appears highly unlikely the GPR results indicate any sort of structure although the golden rule of ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ must be applied.  The lack of pottery or ceramic building materials on the surface makes it unlikely that a building is indicated.

Perhaps I should have saved a more exciting post for #100!

Bank Holiday Monday

The August Bank Holiday lived up to its reputation.  It rained, pretty much all day.  According to our rain gauge we had another centimeter and the roads were all flooded once more.  So, folks, that it is for Gorhambury for the next 11 months.  Plenty to do, however, with data processing, analysis and interpretation.

Today Ellen and I went back to site to collect the last remaining pegs.  Ellen organised us into walking back and forth across the field systematically to see if we could find my missing survey book.  On our second pass…

A very damp notebook!

A very damp notebook!

It was very soggy, but thanks to being a “rite-in-the-rain” product it looks OK and is now drying in the airing cupboard.  Yay!  Inevitably, as we were walking around picking up pegs and finding the book, it started to rain and we were soaked by the time we left.

On Sunday, I had some fun making timelapse videos.  Here is a condensed version of surveying three squares.

I did a poor job of setting it up for the GPR, but here it is anyway:

I have quickly processed the GPR data from using the large 160mhz antenna. We surveyed a block 20x40m which went over the “sinuous ditch” in the hopes we might be able to see it more clearly. We have picked up the walls that we saw with the 450mhz antenna.  In the radargrams (the vertical slices which is how the data is collected) I think I can see the ditch… but I need to check with someone more experienced at reading them.  Here are the time slices.  Note that we used a 1m spacing between lines which leads to a cruder picture.

Time slices from a 20x40m block at 1m spacing using the 160mhz antenna.

Time slices from a 20x40m block at 1m spacing using the 160mhz antenna.

I thought it would be useful to show one radargram from the day 15/16 block.  This is line 1893 which was surveyed from north to south, i.e., from the top of a block (as I usually present them) to the bottom.  Here is a screen grab from “radexplorer” showing unprocessed data.

An unprocessed radargram of line 1893.

An unprocessed radargram of line 1893.

It is very difficult to see much.  This is because most of the signal is the loud “noise” near the surface.  The first thing to do is tell the software where ground level is, i.e., the start of the first ‘loud’ reflection shown as black band at the top of the radargram.  Then we need to apply ‘gain’.  This is simply amplifying the lower reflections which are much weaker than the ones near the surface.

Line 1893 after the ground level has been input and gaining (using the autogain function in radexplorer).

Line 1893 after the ground level has been input and gaining (using the autogain function in radexplorer).

We can see much more now, but there is still a great deal of banding.  The bands are, essentially, echos and can be removed with the “background removal” function.

The processed radargram of line 1893.

The processed radargram of line 1893.

There is a great deal going on in this line of data.  Note, however, how the vertical column of echos under where I have put the label “wall” starts down into the radargram where as the column of echos where I have put “ring” starts at the top.  The “ring” is a small incipient mushroom ring which I noticed as we pushed the GPR over it.

A small incipient mushroom ring.

A small incipient mushroom ring.

If we look at the upper time slices we can see the ring:

A time slice from near the surface showing line 1893. The dark blob near the centre of the line is the mushroom ring.

A time slice from near the surface showing line 1893. The dark blob near the centre of the line is the mushroom ring.

For the wall, however, we need to look at a deeper slice.

Slice 3, 14-18ns.

Slice 3, 14-18ns.

In this slice we can see a small rectangular building showing faintly in the data. This building explains some of the things we can see in the radargram.  Remember that north is to the left of this radargram.

The arc we can see at the bottom of the top slice starting at about 27m west and going to 34m west is the northern edge of a very big mushroom ring.

A large mushroom ring.

A large mushroom ring.

The interaction between the fungus and the grass is quite complex.  The rings are showing in the radargrams probably because they are retaining water.  This can make the grass grow lush, or in extreme circumstances kill the grass.

A mushroom ring killing the grass.

A mushroom ring killing the grass.

Some of the rings merge and become quite complex.

A complex mushroom ring.

A complex mushroom ring.

And some of them cause mad photographers to get to their knees.

yummy circle

Yet another mushroom ring.

Yes, I became a bit obsessed.

Although we have finished for this season, there are lots of other things on the horizon, as well as working through all this great data.

I know I have said it before, but it is worth saying again.  Many thanks to everyone who contributed.  We collected great data, and we have found some really intriguing things.

In the frozen north?

A short while ago we were in the bottom pointy bit of the theatre field. We are now in the top pointy bit! We have surveyed with the mag a substantial proportion of the field. A quick check with QGIS shows that we have surveyed 17.3 hectares of a 27.3 hectare field.  Good job everyone.

To start, let us see the overall progress.

The area surveyed after day 18.

The area surveyed after day 18.

The northern area has some very interesting features.

Detail of the northern area.

Detail of the northern area.

The sinuous ditch continues westwards up the dry valley towards the wall.  A basic aquaduct seems a good possibility.  Less Pont du Gard and more muddy ditch, as aquaducts in Britannia tended to be.  There are also quite a few small and quite faint ditches which look like small field boundaries.  Perhaps evidence of agriculture outside the town when the ‘1955 ditch’ was the boundary and before the wall was built?

There is a nice find in the topmost area.

A building parallel to the road just inside the Chester gate.

A building parallel to the road just inside the Chester gate.

A rectangular building can be seen a little back from the line of Watling Street just inside the Chester Gate.  Snack bar or tax office?  This will be a nice building to target with the GPR… next year!

On the subject of GPR, the crew managed a 20×40 block with the large 160mhz antenna, and two 40x40m  blocks with the usual 450mhz antenna.  Here are the time slices from the two blocks with the 450.

The more southerly block of GPR data. The slices are 8-12, 12-16, 16-20 and 20-24ns.

The more southerly block of GPR data. The slices are 8-12, 12-16, 16-20 and 20-24ns.

The more northerly block of GPR data. The slices are 8-12, 12-16, 16-20 and 20-24ns.

The more northerly block of GPR data. The slices are 8-12, 12-16, 16-20 and 20-24ns.

An excellent result showing a whole series of buildings.  Joining up the 16-20ns slices in Google Earth we can see how they relate to the magnetic data.

The day 18 GPR blocks overlaid on the magnetic data.

The day 18 GPR blocks overlaid on the magnetic data.

The same area as the previous image for comparison.

The same area as the previous image for comparison.

And finally for this evening, the context of those GPR blocks.

The GPR results around the day 18 data.

The GPR results around the day 18 data.

Quite an impressive series of buildings in the heart of the town.  Clearly, expanding the GPR survey next year will be well worth the effort.

The weather for tomorrow, our final day, is somewhat uncertain.  We will see…