Tag Archives: Roman road

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…

 

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Is that a magnetometer on the horizon?

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

Figure 1: Ruth and the magnetometer on the horizon.

The mag team were in wheel spinning mode today. In other words, it was partial madness.  For logistical reasons I don’t have the mag this evening to download the data, so it’ll be a magfest on Sunday.

The GPR team completed its usual 80 x 40m block today, although the steep slope made it harder work than usual.  Figure 2 shows the time slices.

Figure 2: GPR time slices from day 12.

Although we don’t have any clear exciting buildings we have picked-up the line of two roads running at right angles.  We’ll get the junction tomorrow.  the NW–SE road shows best in slice 6 (Figure 2, second row, first slice), and the SW–NE road in slices 4 and 5.   Figures 3 and 4 show these two slices in context.

Figure 3: GPR time slice 4 with the line of Street 26 (as numbered by Niblett and Thompson) indicated.

Figure 4: GPR time slice 6 with the line of Street 11 (as numbered by Niblett and Thompson) indicated.

The 1955 ditch also seems to show in some slices, e.g., in Figure 3.  The western end of the aqueduct as seen in Wednesday’s slice clearly has a complicated relationship with the 1955 ditch.  At some point I need to look at the radargrams too.

Tomorrow’s block across the road junction will be interesting to see.  Junctions are usually prime locations for structures, but there is nothing much showing in the mag data.  Fingers crossed!

The next update will be on Sunday as Ellen and I will be at a family wedding tomorrow.

Figure 5: One of these things is not like the others.

 

Gorhambury, year 4 day 1

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

It really does not seem like the fourth year we have returned to Gorhambury, and the sixth year of the project, but it is true.  In our first year at Gorhambury we had GPR for the first time and mag, but the res would not work.  In the second season we had all three, although we had some problems with the res and dry weather.  Last year we had nothing for the mag to do, but the res was working well.  This year the drought has made doing res impossible.  Oh well, life would be boring if everything went to plan!

The mag survey is expanding into the field through which the Fosse runs.  Figure 1 shows the location of our first two grids.

Figure 1: the location of the first mag grids of 2018.

They are looking a bit lonely up in the that top corner, but it won’t take long for them to start fitting into the wider pattern.  Figure 2 shows the grids closer up!

Figure 2: day 1 mag results.

Nothing too stunning in our first two grid squares.  Quite a few bright black-and-white spots which are tractor bolts or horseshoes.  The eastern grid, however, does have two quite faint parallel lines which turn a right angle.  My first though was agricultural marks but they do not lie at angle which would make sense in comparison to the field boundaries.  It will be helpful to see the wider pattern when we have surveyed some more.

The big success with the mag is that it is fixed!  We took the morning to do a test grid square and process it to make sure that it all worked OK.  Many thanks to Pat for bringing the mag down from Tamworth and helping survey the test square.

At the end of last year we had an annoying two grid square gap in the side of the GPR survey.  We decided to fill this in first.  In Figure 3 I have outlined the block we surveyed today in red.

Figure 3: GPR grid location for day 1.

As GPR data is three-dimensional, getting the grids to match is quite a challenge.  At the moment, I have just been processing each block individually and crudely adding them together in Google Earth.  One day I’ll have to do it properly!

Figure 4 shows eight of the amplitude slices from today’s survey.

Figure 4: day 1 time slices.

The slice in the top-left corner shows the first hints of archaeology under the ploughsoil.  In the second slide walls and a road are starting to show quite clearly. Note how some of the building walls show more clearly at a deeper depth than the road, especially the small square one which is on its own.

In Figure 5 I have just taken one time slice, a5 (third one on the top row) and put it in context in Google Earth.

Figure 5: day 1 GPR results.

I have labelled some of the main features.  One pleasing thing is that the building on the eastern edge of the block we surveyed today matches perfectly with the block we surveyed last year.  Yay for differential GPS!  One interesting thing is that there seems to be a wall cutting across the line of the “1955 ditch”, the first century boundary of the city.  We do have structures built over the line of the ditch in the southern part of the town, and Frere thought the boundary went out of use in the early second century, around about AD 125.

Hopefully we will be able to greatly expand the mag survey tomorrow, and we are going to start filling in the GPR survey in the northern part of the theatre field.

Many thanks to everyone who turned out today in the hot weather.

Of snow and sheep

Yesterday started off well. The weather was a little cold, but other than that it wasn’t too bad.  Then it started to snow.  The snow was OK, not too much.  Then it snowed some more.  And a bit more…

Fig. 1: surveying in the snow.

Just to add to the delights, we had a visitation from some sheep.  They charged past me where I was laying in the grid for the next square, and surrounded the team using the res.

Fig. 2: The sheep visit the survey.

Fig. 3: The sheep visit the survey (heavily cropped photo).

By lunchtime, it was getting silly, and we packed-up.

Fig. 4: Getting silly.

We did, however, get some very nice results from both the 0.5m probe-spacing data and the 1m -probe spacing data (the latter “looks” a bit deeper into the soil).

Fig. 5: the 0.5m probe-spacing data.

Fig. 6: the 1m probe-spacing data.

The dark line running diagonally across the plot is a Roman road with a subsidiary road running off it at an angle.  The excavations were at the far left-hand side of the image.  The buildings along the road are pretty clear.  Both these images have been high-pass filtered to bring out the structures.

Although the landscape is covered in snow, it isn’t actively snowing at the moment, so I suspect we will be going out again today.

Pipe dreams

Yes, I know, blog posts are like busses…

Some of you may have seen a recent BBC News item about the holes for the gas pipe in Verulamium Park.

Fig. 1: BBC News item about Verulamium Park.

I must admit to being a little peeved that a few small roughly dug holes to look at a gas pipe got more media attention than CAGG’s extensive surveys in Verulamium!  The gas pipe has always been, however, the bane of our lives as it’s magnetic field is so strong it masks a 30m wide strip of the archaeology in our magnetometer survey.  That field, however, has no impact on the GPR and I have been intending to extend the GPR survey to cover the areas affected by the pipe. This, and the forthcoming meeting of the Roman Finds Group in Verulamium this Friday, prompted me to see if anyone could come out at short notice and survey around one of the pipe holes.

Fig. 2: Surveying the pipeline (photo: Mike Smith).

So, Mike Smith and I spent a day surveying around the site of the hole in which the traces of a Roman building were discovered.  It got a little fiddly at times, especially as the pipe had to be dragged along 11m every 30 minutes as they joined the lengths together.  The location of our new survey is given in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3: the location of the latest GPR survey shown in red.

As usual, we surveyed in 40m lengths (where possible) at 0.5m transect spacing.  The data were sliced using GPR Process and the images produced using Surfer v. 8, and imported into Google Earth via Adobe Photoshop.  The last step is needed to make the missing bits transparent. Unusually, the deeper slices (nos. 8 and 9) still showed useful information.

One annoying thing is that Google Earth have recently updated the satellite image for Verulamium.  It is a bit dark to my eyes, but more seriously it is in the wrong place.  In the time slices I could see the relationship between the path and the image was clearly wrong.  I spent some time checking my notes, but when I checked the historical imagery, I found the 2009 images matched the plots much better.  I have, therefore, used the older imagery for the figures below.

Fig 4: the magnetometer survey in the area of the new GPR survey.

In Fig. 4 we can see the magnetometer survey for the area in question.  The pipe line, running under the path and then diagonally across the football pitch, dominates the plot.  We can however, see the road running clearly SW–NE across the map (Niblett and Thompson’s Streets 16 and 17 crossing Street 12), and bit of buildings showing as the white lines against the grey and black.  As well as the gas main, there are three pipelines running from the cafe in the NE corner.

Fig. 5: third time slice, 10.5 to 13.5ns.

In Fig. 5, the topmost time slice in the sequence, we can already see the road surface running SW–NE, and we can also see signs of the pipe running across the plot although this might be a marker in the upper levels as the pipe itself shows more clearly lower down.

Fig. 6: fourth time slice, 13.5 to 16.5ns.

The next slice (Fig. 6) shows the road more clearly, and some hints of buildings.  I am unsure what the area of high reflections is to the south-east and parallel to the road is.  It is almost as if the road line was changed a little at some point.

Fig. 7: fifth time slice, 16.5 to 19.5ns.

Fig. 7 is starting to show the buildings up near the path much more clearly.  These are buildings that front onto Street 12 to the north.  Street 12 eventually leads into the forum and is probably part of Watling Street.  At the southern edge of the survey there are some white areas which may be robbed walls, with perhaps a surviving floor surface.

Fig. 8: sixth time slice, 19.5 to 22.5ns.

In Fig 8. we can now see two very clear lines either side of the road.  These maybe stone conduits or roadside drains?  The buildings near the path are starting to show more clearly, and now we can see the gas pipe quite clearer.  The fact that is disappears to the west is probably due to topography.  Ideally, time slices would be topographically corrected.

Fig. 9: seventh time slice, 22.5 to 25.5ns.

Fig. 9 shows the gas main beautifully, and more of the buildings near the path.  Those to the east of Street 16 and south of Street 12 are labelled “baths” by Niblett and Thompson.  The GPR data would make that interpretation a little more tentative, I think.

Fig. 10: eighth time slice, 25.5 to 28.5ns.

Fig. 11: ninth time slice, 28.5 to 31.5ns.

Figs 10 and 11 show some of the deeper features.  Some hints of more buildings are showing, especially in the NW corner of the plot.

Personally, I think this is much more interesting and informative than the gas pipe trench!

Fig. 12: the gas pipe.

The one thing that will be useful, is that by knowing how deep the gas pipe is below the surface, we can calibrate the speed of the GPR signal and convert nanoseconds into depth.

I am hoping to continue to expand the GPR survey when I can over the coming months.

Many thanks to Mike for coming out for the day in the cold sunshine.

Filling in the gaps

Thanks to Stuart Gray of Strutt and Parker, I was able to contact Pete and Fiona Letanka and obtain permission for us to survey the paddock of Darrowfield House which lies immediately behind Verulamium Museum. It is the last large-ish area of Verulamium left that has not been totally surveyed using magnetometry. Members of CAGG are, therefore, spending this week filling in the gap.  Our mag was away being repaired, but Pat Johnson of Foerster kindly agreed to bring it down to us today.  We started, therefore, with Earth Resistance and GPR, but after lunch the poor old res meter was left abandoned on the grass while the team got started with the mag survey.

The paddock ought to be exciting.  It lies just behind the line of the Roman wall, and there is a road shown in publications running SW-NE across it.  The first mag results are shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1: the mag survey.

They are surprisingly unexciting.  The diagonal lines running SW-NE look like cultivation marks of some sort.  There is a quiet area behind the supposed line of the wall, running NW-SE, and then one high-magnetic curved feature which may match a bank we can see in the field.  No real sign of the wall, or of the road,

The GPR survey has been processed in 3ns thick slices.  As usual, I’ll work my way down from the top.

Fig. 2: GPR survey, time slice 3, from 10.5ns to 13.5ns.

Fig. 3: GPR survey, time slice 4, from 13.5ns to 16.5ns.

The third slice shown in Fig. 3 really shows surprisingly little. I’m guessing we are only looking into the topsoil here.  The fourth slice (Fig. 3) starts to show some diagonal striping similar to what we can see in the mag data.  Again, this is probably agricultural.

Fig. 4: GPR survey, time slice 5, from 16.5ns to 19.5ns.

Fig. 5: GPR survey, time slice 6, from 19.5ns to 22.5ns.

The fifth slice (Fig. 4) shows the striping very strongly, with two alignments at right angles.  I think these must be land drainage.  They look too straight for “ridge and furrow” and do not have a headland. What is also interesting — or is that worrying? — is that the wheel-ruts which show so clearly on the Google Earth image in the background, also show in the GPR data at this depth.

The sixth slice (Fig 5) faintly shows echoes of the drainage.  To the north are some black squiggly features.  Yes, folks, we have mapped the badger setts!  Nothing very archaeological, so far.

Fig. 6: GPR survey, time slice 7, from 22.5ns to 25.5ns.

In the final slice (Fig. 6), we still have the setts in the north, but we have a very strong linear feature to the south running SW-NE.  Comparing this to the proposed line of the road in Fig. 7, we can see that this would appear to be one edge of it.

Fig. 7: GPR survey, time slice 7, from 22.5ns to 25.5ns, with overlain map of Verulamium.

Right at the edge of the GPR’s signal depth where the returns are very attenuated, we are starting to see the archaeology. Unfortunately, I cannot yet easily convert the time (22.5ns–25.5ns) into physical depth.  It would seem, however, that the archaeology in the lower area may well be at the limit of what we can pick up.  If we look at the radargrams, however, we can see a big feature running across our vertical slices and I would guess this is the road surface.

Fig. 8: an example radargram showing the possible road.

Many thanks to everyone who turned out today and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine.  Also, big thanks to Pat for bringing the mag back for us, and Pete and Fiona for arranging for us to be able to survey the Paddock.

There probably won’t be a posting tomorrow, but I hope on Weds to catch-up.