Tag Archives: resistance

Neat and tidy

Due to being rained off on our last day, a small team of us decided to go out and finish off some things on Bank Holiday Monday. Many thanks to Pauline, Judith, Ruth, Dave and Jim for turning out to do “just one more grid.”  I think it must be a geophysicists ailment that we always would like to be able to just a little bit more…

The mag team completed an impressive ten grids including two awkward partials.  Figure 1 shows the entire survey at the end of the 2018 season.

Figure 1: the mag survey after day 19.

The team have managed to add 19 ha to the survey in the last month.  Figure 2 shows the southern area that we have been surveying this week.  (This field is, confusingly, called “Prae Wood”.)

Figure 2: the southern area (Prae Wood) after day 19.

The team have picked-up an area of intense ferrous noise.  This looks like a small historic period site.  We will have to check out some old maps to see if we can work out what that might be.  The one hiccup in a brilliant last day of work is a single line of data where the sensor froze.  It is very annoying and I’ll have to find some way of fudging that until next summer!

The Earth Resistance survey had one last little block left to make the plot look all neat and tidy.  Many thanks to Pauline and Judith for helping me fill that in (Figures 3 and 4)!

Figure 3: Kris, Judith and Pauline (out of shot) extended the resistance survey. Image © Mike Smith.

Figure 4: the main block of Earth Resistance data collected 2016–2018.

The data collected shows some faint indications of buildings in that corner (Figure 5).

Figure 5: the northern area of the res survey. The NW corner was completed on day 19.

Although my trick of spreading the remote probes wide apart has worked on the whole, this year there is a bit of an edge.  This is because we started with a block in the SW corner, worked eastwards, and then when we had got to the corner, worked back along the hedge line westwards.  Between when we started this block and yesterday we have had in excess of 100mm of rain (or about 4 inches in old money) so it isn’t surprising this shows in the results.

We have now cleared away all the pegs and flags, packed-up the machines and left Gorhambury for another year.  It is a beautiful place to work and we are very grateful to Lord and Lady Verulam and their family for allowing us to extend the survey, to those who work the estate and put up with us getting in the way, and to the estate managers, especially Stuart Gray. Thanks to the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, for lending us the dGPS and the res meter, and SEAHA for the loan of the GPR.  I hope everyone involved thinks the results are worth all the effort. Most of all I would also like to thank all the volunteers who came this year, whether you only managed a day or two, or you came for the whole season.  You are what makes this project so much fun!

 

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“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

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

As I start this entry of the blog, the rain is splashing against my windows as was predicted by the Met Office. Although we might question Dolly Parton’s grammar, the sentiment seems true enough.  Yesterday, however, was a superb day with all three techniques collecting data across the site.

After yesterday’s excellent results, the GPR crew had great expectations.  The only problem was a tree in the way under which the shepherdess had put hay when the grass in the field was dead from lack of rain.  Unfortunately, sheep mean sheep droppings (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: Mike on sheep poo removal duty.

Figure 2: Check out those wheels!

Luckily for everyone concerned, I think the effort was worth it (see Figure 3)!

Figure 3: GPR time slices from Day 18.

I could misquote Dolly along the lines of putting-up with sheep poo if you want excellent GPR results but I might be pushing my luck…  The many buildings are quite obvious in this data set.

Figure 4 shows this grid in context of the other GPR grids in this area.

Figure 4: GPR results including the day 18 data (SW corner).

We have added a very large number of new buildings to the map of Verulamium.  As I was only just starting with GPR data when we started collecting it in 2015, the processing keeps changing a bit from block to block. One of my jobs is to start from scratch and reprocess the whole thing so that the maps are consistent.  Should keep me busy for a while.  Figure 5 is a crude mosaic of images just showing the entire area surveyed so far.

Figure 5: crude mosaic of GPR time slices at the end of the 2018 season.

This represents 19ha of GPR data collected at 0.5m transect intervals.  Just pushing the machine along the lines, not including getting to the block, setting-up, moving strings etc. is 380km.  It also means 380km of radargrams!  No wonder the data takes-up 33gb of my hard disk and consists of over 70,000 files.

The mag team completed nine 40x40m grid squares which is 1.44 hectares.  Excellent progress!

Figure 6: the mag team in the southern field.

Figure 7 shows the whole of the 2018 survey (along with a big chunk of Verulamium).

Figure 7: the mag survey after day 18.

Even though we have been using the machine for some years now, and it does have its frustrations, when all is going well we can really cover some ground.  The season was planned for 20 days: we lost 3 days to rain, and most of a day to testing the mag at the start.  Despite this, the team have managed to collect 17.7 hectares of mag data.  Without actually getting to the grids and back (which is quite a bit of walking in itself), the team have pushed the cart 88.5km over the past four weeks.

Figure 8 shows the southern area in more detail.

Figure 8: the southern area of mag data after day 18.

The blue arrows in Figure 8 indicate the lines of old field boundaries.  These can be seen on old maps such as the 1699 parish map.  The yellow arrows mark ferrous objects.  Some are very big, but there are a scatter of smaller ones too.  Last, but definitely not least, there are a few magnetic features which may be archaeological, such as pits.  I have picked a few out with red arrows.  Although they look small at this scale, they are probably 1m to 2m across, a quite respectable size for a pit.

Although large mainly  blank areas are disappointing to collect, they are important nonetheless. The immediate environs of Verulamium are extremely rich, archaeologically. The field lies:

  • 360m W of the busy area of buildings recorded by the GPR discussed above;
  • 600m NE of the major Iron Age settlement at Prae Wood;
  • 600m N of the fields at Windridge Farm where metal detecting rallies have taken place;
  • 500m NW of the major cemetery at King Harry Lane;
  • 1,100m SE of Gorhambury Roman villa;
  • 1,000m NE of the new villa found at Windridge Farm.

Also, the Fosse, which is preserved in the woodland along the NE edge of the field, is a really very impressive earthwork.   We just seem to have hit an empty bit of landscape between all these sites!

The res survey now covers some 6.58ha, that is about 263,200 earth resistance readings.  Not into the millions like the mag and GPR, but this is res after all!  Figure 9 shows the entire survey.

Figure 10: the entire Earth Resistance survey after day 18.

At this scale the roads show very nicely as do some of the more substantial buildings.  Figure 11 is the area surveyed in 2018.

Figure 11: Res survey after day 18.

Given that the fields were baked hard and the grass was dead at the start of the season, I am pleased we managed any Earth Resistance survey at all this season.  The team yesterday put-up with my geophysics OCD and completed right into the corner by the theatre. We then doubled-back and started filling-in between the top of the survey block and the drive.  We have picked-up some parts of buildings seen in grids to the south, but in general along the edge the deep colluvium, as shown by the sunken nature of the drive, is to some extent masking the archaeology.

Many thanks to everyone on the team who made the 2018 season such a success.  A especially big thanks to those who helped move the equipment about including Ellen, Mike, Jim and Ruth.

For those who haven’t been involved but would like to join future surveys, do get in touch.  We are a friendly group, and provide on-the-job training.

And finally… (as they used to say on the news)

 

A busy day

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

We had a large team today and as a result we managed ten mag grids, two and a bit GPR grids and seven earth resistance grids. Good job everybody!

First to the mag.  The team extended their survey in the field to the south of Mobbs Hole.  Figure 1 shows the overall survey and Figure 2 zooms in on this field.

Figure 1: the 2018 magnetometry survey.

Figure 2: the survey in the field to the south after day 2.

I have annotated Figure 2.  The red arrows indicate the line of the ditch of the Fosse.  It is salutary to note that a feature as big as the Fosse barely shows in the mag data.  Clearly the upper fills of the ditch are largely the same soil as the surrounding topsoil.  We can normally see pits and ditches on archaeological sites because they are filled with more organic, and thus more magnetic, soils, the result of nearby human occupation.  The green arrow shows a “blob” of higher magnetic readings. The rather diffuse edges to this feature make me suspicious that this might be a “tree throw”, i.e., where a tree has blown down.  The yellow arrow marks two strongly magnetic parallel lines.  At first I thought these might be something metallic but checking their actual values shows they vary from -10 to +29 nT.  Certainly strong, but unlikely to be metal.  The blue indicates something which is definitely metal; it has values of -1543 to +680nT!  The dark pink arrows indicate a faint line, possibly an old fence line.

The res team consisting of Deborah, Tim, Julia and Anne completed seven squares.  Figure 3 shows the whole survey from 2016–2018.

Figure 3: the earth resistance survey 2016–2018.

We have now covered 6.3ha.  For a resistance survey at 0.5m spacing between readings, that is pretty impressive.  Res has always been a poor third to mag and GPR in this survey.  We didn’t get started until a year after the other techniques when UCL purchased a new RM85, and we have had problems with weather.  Hopefully we can fill in the top corner on Saturday.

Figure 4 shows a detail of the area completed this year.

Figure 4: the northern area completed so far this season.

The street shows very clearly in Figure 4 running SW-NE, and slightly more faintly we can see the buildings either side. One problem to tackle in processing data is that very high areas, like the road, can make the more subtle stuff harder to see.  If we “clip” the image to bring-up the details of the buildings, the road area becomes one big black blob!  One way to get around this is to use a high-pass filter.  Figure 5 shows the same area with the high-pass filter applied.

Figure 5: the 2018 survey area after the application of a high-pass filter.

As you can see, the buildings show much more clearly but the road much less so.  Especially with resistance data, it is worth looking at several versions of the data processing to get the most detail from the survey.

The GPR crew finished off the grid from yesterday and did another 40x80m block.  Figures 6 and 7 are the time slices from the two days.

Figure 6: time slices from day 16 of the GPR survey.

Figure 7: time slices from day 17 of the GPR survey.

As you can easy see, we have some sweet buildings showing.  Figure 8 is a rough composite of the sites in this area.

Figure 8: composite of slices in the area of the day 16 and 17 survey blocks.

I need to do some cleaning-up of the various blocks as they were processed at different times and with different software packages, but in general you can see the mass of buildings crowding along this section of road.  Very nice!

Signing off now so we can go and start day 18.  This may be our last day as the weather forecast for Sunday is dire…

 

The end is nigh?

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

In this case, two ends: we have just started the final week of the 2018 survey season and the mag team are within two partials of completing as much as we can of Mobbs Hole and moving into the field to the south.  First to the mag.

After the annoying plethora of frozen sensors, the mag team spent a good proportion of their day re-doing duff squares.  It was worth it, however, as today’s data looks fine (Figure 1).

Figure 1: the mag survey in Mobbs Hole at the end of Day 15.

Although we can be pleased with the area we have covered, surprisingly little apart from the Fosse itself and related features show.  We must keep in mind, as Isobel Thompson reminded me this morning, that “even such negative evidence is information”.  Negative information may be important, but at the end of a long day’s survey some tasty looking buildings would be nice.  Figure 2 shows one possibility, although we may be grasping at straws!

Figure 2: a possible building in Mobbs Hole?

The Earth Resistance survey takes fourth place in priority after surveying in pegs, mag and GPR.  Anne and I did, however, manage to extend the main block of res data by another three grids.  Figure 3 shows the results.

Figure 3: the Earth Resistance survey after day 15.

As you can see, we have picked-up some more of the building to the east, but also part of Street 25 running SW–NE.  There is quite a break in the line of the street which is curious.  Figure 4 shows the GPR data in this area.

Figure 4: the GPR data in the area of the res survey. The red box marks the outline of the 2018 survey after day 15.

It is useful to note that some parts of the buildings show more clearly in the res data, and some in the GPR thus making the extra effort of doing res as well worth while.  The GPR data also shows a break in the road.  Figure 5 shows the mag data.

Figure 5: the mag data. The red box shows the 2018 res survey area after day 15, and the blue line the course of the aqueduct.

Note how the buildings that show clearly in the res/GPR barely show in the mag data, but how the “burnt building” (assuming my interpretation is correct) only shows in the mag data.  Multiple techniques rule, OK?  I have roughly marked the line of the aqueduct in Figure 5.  Let’s now look at how that maps back onto the res data (Figure 6).

Figure 6: the Earth Resistance data with the line of the aqueduct indicated.

Not only does the aqueduct kink around the two buildings as we noted in an earlier post, but it goes through the break in the road.  I guess there could be a wooden bridge (which we would not detect) or maybe a culvert where the roof has collapsed or has been robbed. Fascinating stuff.

The GPR crew in their machine-like fashion completed yet another 80x40m block.  Figure 7 shows six time slices.

Figure 7: GPR survey, day 15, six time slices.

Most of the action, so to speak, is in the NE corner.  There is a particularly clear corner in the fourth time slice indicated with a red arrow (Figure 7, top-right slice).  This might be a surviving floor. There also appears to be a long linear negative feature, as shown in the fifth time slice by three red arrows.  Figures 8 and 9 show slices 4 and 5 in context with the day 14 data.

Figure 8: GPR data from days 14 and 15, slice 4.

Figure 9: GPR data from days 14 and 15, slice 5.

Three things caught my eye.  The squarish “floor” which crossed over the boundary between the two days data, the sub-circular white “blob” which also lies across the boundary, and the long linear low-reflection feature (shown in white) which runs diagonally SW–NE across the lower half. I traced the square and the blob and had a look at the mag data (Figure 10, click on it to see full-sized).

Figure 10: the mag data with the “square” and the “blob” outlined.

The white blob corresponds with a faint “blob” of higher readings in the mag data.  On its own, I would have been tempted to ignore this, but it does look like a feature about 6m across.  The square is harder to assess.  There are magnetic features parallel to it and close by.  We are probably looking at parts of a building.  I had a quick look at the radargrams and the square high-reflectance feature in the GPR data looks like a solid layer, probably a floor.  I also noticed the long linear ditch-like feature running across the mag data, so I traced that and went back to the GPR data (Figure 11).

Figure 11: GPR data with the linear feature seen in the mag data highlighted.

The linear feature in the mag data fits the linear feature in the GPR data perfectly.  Lovely result.

It was a busy day surveying today, and so I didn’t have time to goof off and take photos of people or the views.  Maybe tomorrow!

Thanks to everyone who helped today.

 

 

Back to the fire

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

Week three started well with all three machines collecting data.  The Earth Resistance survey was the poor cousin as regards person-power but Ellen and I, helped by Rhian, completed three grid squares after lunch.

Figure 1: Ellen and an earth resistance meter.

The grids are over the fascinating burnt building seen in the mag.  Figure 2 shows the mag data in this area.

Figure 2: the mag data in the area of the res survey.

The black line snaking across Figure 2 from top-left to bottom-right is the aqueduct.  The very bright black-and-white area in the NW corner of that figure is probably a burnt building which was never replaced in stone.  Figure 3 shows the Earth Resistance data.

Figure 2: the Earth Resistance data.

Figure 3 is a crude composite of the data collected in 2016, 2017 and 2018.  The three squares at the north edge are this year’s grids.  We have clearly picked-up a long wall running NW-SE, and some square areas of higher resistance (?floors, maybe).  This survey makes an interesting comparison to the GPR in this area (Figure 4).

Figure 4: the GPR survey in the same area as Figures 1 and 2.

There is a lot of work to do tracing off walls and features from the three surveys.

The GPR crew completed another 80x40m block, although the slope was quite a challenge.  Figure 5 shows the time slices.

Figure 5: day 11 GPR time slices.

Slices 4 and 5 (top-right and middle left) seem the most interesting.  No stunningly clear buildings but lots going on.  Figures 6 and 7 compare the fifth slice with the mag data.

Figure 6: Fifth time slice from day 11 (indicated by the purple line).

Figure 7: the mag data in the area of the day 11 GPR data (shown by the purple box).

Notice how the square of higher mag response shown in darker tones towards the bottom of the purple rectangle are an area of light “low reflections” in the GPR data.  It is possibly something like an earth floor?  Off the west corner of that square in the mag data is a lighter coloured line running to the SW which is matched by a black line of high reflections in the GPR data.  That is clearly a wall, probably made of flint. The very narrow section of the aqueduct which runs east-west across the plot shows very clearly in the GPR data whereas the broader sections do not.  Something odd happens with the aqueduct at the eastern edge of the GPR plot. A  great deal more to tease out.

One problem we have had this year is the sheep.  In general they keep away from us.  The main issue is that some of them think the flags are tasty… (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Tasty! A nibbled flag in Mobbs Hole with the mag crew in the background.

The mag crew consisting of Jim West, Peter Alley and Dave Minty had three annoying partials to do before marching eastwards across the field.  I’m afraid I have not finished processing those annoying squares but I have added in the complete ones to Figure 9 so you can see progress.

Figure 9: mag data in Mobbs Hole after day 11.

Unfortunately, today was a bust as it rained 8.5mm.  The forecast for tomorrow is looking good though.

A picture is worth a 1000 words

The Verulamium magnetometry survey.

The Verulamium magnetometry survey.

I suppose I cannot really get away with that simple a post.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone, it is a fantastic achievement and I am so proud of all of you.  Secondly, a big thanks to everyone who turned out for an extra day on Bank Holiday Monday to complete the Macellum field.

How about some numbers?  Well, Verulamium is the third biggest Roman town in Britain, after London and Cirencester.  It is, however, the largest Roman town in Britain which doesn’t have a modern settlement built over most of it.  We have surveyed 64.5ha of the total area of 81ha.  It has taken us 83 working days starting in the summer of 2013, but we didn’t do much at Verulamium in 2014.  It took 12,900,400 readings to cover those 64.5 ha.   That, of course, doesn’t include the grids we did twice because of frozen sensors or other problems. People pushing the cart walked about 322km, not including having to go back to the start for partials, getting to the squares in the first place, or laying in the tapes and strings.

Let us look in more detail at the last bit surveyed in the Macellum Field.

The area surveyed during day 37) high contrast).

The area surveyed during day 37) high contrast).

Several things come to mind.  Firstly, there is very little there!  Towards the NE and along the western side there may be a ditch feature, although it is quite faint.  Other than that, the main (and annoying) thing are the strong magnetic anomalies along the edge of the field.  Some of you may remember the 12″ gas main which runs across the Park… well here it is again.  What I do not entirely understand why there are differences between the negative and positive readings along our grid lines.  Jim and I spent some time making sure I put the composite together correctly, and we are sure it isn’t a survey error.

This end of the field is know to contain two Romano-Celtic temples.  These are known from aerial photographs taken in the hot summer of 1976.  I wonder if this area of the town was kept clear of encroaching buildings, pits, ditches and the like deliberately?  If we turn the contrast down (i.e., clip the image at +/- 40nT instead of +/- 7.5nT, we can see one of the temples close to the hedge as a faint white line.

Low contrast version of the area surveyed on day 37.

Low contrast version of the area surveyed on day 37.

Yet another target for the GPR next year!

Some of the team (many thanks Ellen, Mike and Jim!) helped re-do a number of areas of the res survey, plus one extra bonus square.  The biblical deluge of Sunday night (Lamer Lane was flooded once more) was not ideal.  This is the final area completed in 2016:

The 2016 resistance survey.

The 2016 resistance survey.

It is a pretty good result.  There is almost no use of the “edge match” feature of the software to get the various grids to join neatly.  It could be improved.  The very high contrast of the temple rather makes the buildings faint, but either the creation of selective composites (i.e., processing bit of the survey separately), or use of a high pass filter, would improve that.  The survey is quite big for a res survey: 2.5739ha according to TS (or 2.6ha to sane people who round numbers), which equals about 103,000 resistance readings.  That, of course, doesn’t include the large numbers of squares we re-did due to the dry conditions.

There is a great deal more to do in terms of data processing and interpretation, but I think we all deserve a well-earned rest.  Well, at least until Thursday…!

Three day catch-up

I haven’t managed a Verulamium post for a few days so here is a quick catch-up.

Firstly, the mag has been slowly working its way eastwards along the Macellum Field.  They are getting pretty close to the end of it.

The mag survey in the Macellum field after day 35.

The mag survey in the Macellum field after day 35.

As can be seen, Watling Street stands out very clearly running from near the theatre to the Chester Gate.  There are lots of buildings along the road as would be expected.  Some are less clear than one would hope because they have been partially excavated.  The spec-ally look to the data, almost certainly because of the gravel subsoil, does make it harder to see what is going on here.  The carrot at the end of the stick — apart from just finishing the field of course — is that there are two Romano-Celtic temples known from aerial photographs near the modern road.

The next image is just to show how much of Verulamium we have now completed.  Poster, anyone?

The complete survey so far.

The complete survey so far.

The resistance survey has had a few problems.  The lack of rain has made the top-surface of the field very dry and hard.  It is very slow going, and the data is not as clean as one would like.  Despite the problems, however, some of the buildings along the road, especially at the north side of the plot, are very clear indeed.

The resistance survey after day 35.

The resistance survey after day 35.

Although it doesn’t jump out at one when just looking at the plot, the sinuous ditch does show in the resistance data when one knows where to look!

The GPR team completed some blocks along the hedgeline which I haven’t processed yet… sorry!  They also did one block up next to the Chester Gate to investigate the building here, and one over the sinuous ditch.  The latter did show the ditch but very little else.  Let’s look at the block near the Chester Gate.

The mag survey near the Chester Gate.

The mag survey near the Chester Gate.

This first image shows the mag data.  The building in the middle shows as white lines roughly parallel to the modern drive.  There are lots of other darker features, probably various pits and the sinuous ditch shows to the west.

Day 35 GPR, slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

This time slice shows the impact of splitting the survey over two days!  The left hand side was done yesterday afternoon, the right hand side this morning.  The pattern of the ploughing and the tractor’s turning circle in the corner of the field show clearly.  Luckily, the problem is much less acute at lower depths.

Day 35 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

This time slice now shows the building beautifully.  What a wonky end wall on the north side! There is a long narrow range of rooms to the SW.

Day 35 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

This time slice shows the SW line of rooms more clearly, although at the southern end they are been partly destroyed.  We can see, however, fainter traces of the walls on the NE, a corridor, perhaps?

Day 35 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

This time slice does show the “corridor” to the NE much more clearly.  Perhaps it is more deeply buried in the plough bank?   For most of the plot, though, nothing much else is showing.

There has been a little rain this evening.  I have my fingers crossed for more.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be dry so that the mag can plough on eastwards!

As always, many thanks to everyone, especially those working with the res meter.  It is slow and boring at the best of times, but slow+annoying is a great deal to ask.