11. Geophysical survey

Archaeology is about the life and culture of ancient people. One of the ways of contributing to the interpretation of past lives and cultures from different time periods, is through is through the interpretation of evidence and findings gathered by the practice of archaeological geophysical survey. Geophysical survey: Image courtesy of Wessex Archaeology From a practical perspective, archaeological geophysical survey uses non-intrusive and non-destructive techniques to determine the presence or absence of anomalies likely to be caused by archaeological features, structures or deposits, as far as reasonably possible, within a specified area or site on land, in the inter-tidal zone or underwater. Geophysical survey determines the presence of anomalies of archaeological potential through measurement of one or more physical properties of the subsurface. Geophysical survey techniques include:

* Magnetometer survey
* Earth resistance (resistivity) survey
* Ground penetrating radar
* Electromagnetic methods
* Topsoil magnetic susceptibility
* Bathymetric survey
* Side scan sonar survey
* Sub-bottom profiler survey
* Maritime geotechnical work

A geophysical survey should, as far as is reasonably possible, inform on the presence or absence, character, extent and in some cases, apparent relative phasing of buried archaeology. It is not uncommon for geophysical surveys to be commissioned ahead of planning applications, due to their ability to inform about the potential nature of buried features. From the geophysical survey it should be possible make an assessment of the surveyed area’s merit in the appropriate context. This may lead to one or more of the following:

* planning to ensure further recording, preservation or management of the resource
* planning to moderate a threat to the archaeological resource
* proposing further archaeological investigation within a programme of research
* contribution to current debate and research programmes and agendas

## Checklist

* Create a project design with appropriate content.
* Make contact with your local authority archaeologist (and possibly national curator too), and keep them informed of your work.
* Make sure you are aware of, and have abided by, all legislative requirements including site access permissions and licensing requirements.
* Produce a project report at the end of your work.
* Make sure that you have full and proper records, and that these are archived appropriately (including planning for backup and transfer of digital data).
* Consider confidentiality if appropriate and seek specialist advice.
* Consider different options for publication.
* Consider whether organising an event for the Festival of British Archaeology and/or Scottish Archaeology Month to publicise your work would be possible.

1. As a starting point to any project, a specification or project design should be developed to help plan your work. See [Project design and project report checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for a checklist of what should be included in a geophysical survey project design. Never to early to start!

2. Show your project design to your local authority archaeologist (or equivalent), and inform them of any work you plan to carry out. This will help ensure that your work contributes to the local archaeological record, while also providing access to advice and guidance that the local authority archaeologist may be able to offer. If your work is to do with maritime archaeology, it will also be appropriate to contact the relevant national curator, for example English Heritage, Cadw or Historic Scotland.

3. Be aware of any legal or statutory requirements attached to your proposed work. For example, it is essential to have permission to access your site from the landowner. In addition, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) equipment owners** should hold a specific radio equipment license issued by OFCOM***. This includes being aware of places where use of GPR is forbidden without additional OFCOM clearance and/or permission from the institution in question, such as hospitals, prisons and airfields. Operators of GPR equipment should also abide by the European Code of Practice, EG 202 730. In Northern Ireland the use of detecting devices on State care sites and scheduled monuments requires the consent of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage Directorate. In England and Wales, a Section 42 license is required for geophysical survey or other forms of archaeological investigation, including excavation, on Scheduled Ancient Monuments. The national agencies, Cadw and English Heritage, can be contacted for further details of this. In Scotland a Scheduled Monument Consent is required to carry out geophysical survey on Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Details about how to apply for this are available at: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/heritage/searchmonuments/sched....
(** In the case of hired equipment, the license should be held by the leasing company)
(*** http://www.ofcom.org.uk/radiocomms/ifi/licensing/classes/rlans/gprlicenses)

4. Produce a project report at the end of your work. The minimum contents for a report on geophysical survey are listed in [Project design and project report checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17).

5. Make full and proper records of your work, including written, graphic, electronic and photographic records as appropriate. This should include using pro forma record forms where applicable, and digital records that are regularly copied and backed up. The project archive for a geophysical survey should comprise of project design, log sheets, digital data and the final report. For guidance on digital archiving of geophysical data, see the ADS guidance. Keep all data that was generated by your fieldwork, as this should go into the project archive. Be aware too, that as technology and media changes, that you may need to migrate this data in the future, for example from older CDs to newer storage systems. This means that your findings can be revisited by researchers in the future and shows how you came to the conclusions that your project made.
Volunteers take the lead with geophys at CDAS open day
6. If you are working with maritime archaeology and make a significant discovery, you may need to keep it confidential until you have sought advice from the relevant national curator (e.g. English Heritage or Historic Scotland).

7. All archaeological projects, including geophysical surveys, regardless of how extensive, should be published and disseminated. At the very least, a description of the project and its conclusions should be submitted to your local Historic Environment Record (HER) or the Sites and Monuments Record, and the relevant National Monuments Record or equivalent. This description should take the form of a report which contains enough information for your conclusions to be scrutinised. The best way to submit this report if your site is in England, Scotland or Wales is online, via the [OASIS system](http://www.oasis.ac.uk). In Scotland, a site summary should be prepared for _Discovery and Excavation in Scotland_ (DES), published by Archaeology Scotland. If you have submitted your report through OASIS, DES will be notified automatically. By using the OASIS system you will also be given the opportunity to have your report included in the ADS ‘grey literature library’ of unpublished fieldwork reports, which will be available online. In Northern Ireland send your report to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage Directorate. For the Bailiwick of Guernsey, including Alderney and Sark, reports should be submitted to the HER at Guernsey Museum.

8. You could also consider publicising your work through public events, such as organising an event for the [Festival of British Archaeology](http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk) or [Scottish Archaeology Month](http://www.scottisharchaeology.org.uk/?q=node/33). Other options include:
* [Heritage Open Days](http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk) in England
* [Doors Open Days](http://www.doorsopendays.org.uk) in Scotland
* [Open Doors Days](http://www.civictrustwales.org) in Wales
* [European Heritage Open Days](http://www.ehsni.gov.uk) in Northern Ireland.

## Suggested further reading

### IfA Standards and Guidance

* [IfA Standards and Guidance for archaeological geophysical survey](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/geophysicsS...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Introduction to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Appendices to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)

### CBA Practical Handbooks

* Rippon, S. (2004) _Historic Landscape Analysis: Deciphering the countryside_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 16
* Dellino-Musgrave, V. (forthcoming) _Marine Archaeology: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 20

All CBA Practical Handbooks are available online at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/handbooks or at CBA bookstalls at events across the country (see http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/events)

## Other References

* Aspinall, A., Gaffney, C., and Schmidt, A. (2008) _Magnetometry for archaeologists 2008_. Lanham (MD), AltaMira Press.
* Bowens, A. (ed) (2008) _Underwater Archaeology: the NAS Guide to Principles and Practice_. Nautical Archaeology Society/Blackwell.
* Brown, D. (2007) _Archaeological Archives. A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation_. Institute for Archaeologists on behalf of the Archaeological Archives Forum. Available as free of charge hard copy on request from the IfA (http://www.archaeologists.net) or [downloadable PDF document](http://www.britarch.ac.uk/archives/Archives_Best_Practice.pdf).
* Clark, A.J. (1996) _Seeing Beneath the Soil_ (2nd Edition). London, B.T. Batsford Ltd.
* Conyers, L.B. (2004) _Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeologists_. Walnut Creek, AltaMira Press.
* David, A., et al. (2008) _Geophysical Survey in Archaeological Field Evaluation_. Swindon, English Heritage. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/geophysical-survey-in-ar...)
* English Heritage (2009) _Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service: Standards for Archaeological Work_. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/glaas-standards-for-arch...)
* English Heritage (2008) _Geophysical Survey in Archaeological Field Evaluation 2nd Edition_. Swindon: English Heritage. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/geophysical-survey-in-ar...)
* Gaffney, C. and Gator, J. (2003) _Revealing the buried past_. Stroud, Tempus Publishing Ltd.
* Historic Scotland (1996) _Archaeology Procedure Paper 2. Project design, implementation and archiving_. Edinburgh.
* Historic Scotland (2008) _Scottish Planning Policy (SPP 23): Planning and the Historic Environment_. Edinburgh, Historic Scotland. [Download PDF document](http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/242900/0067569.pdf)
* Oswin, J. (2009) _A Field Guide to Geophysics in Archaeology_. Springer Praxis Books/Geophysical Sciences.

### Other Guidance Sources

* English Heritage also provide a database of guidelines and standards for different elements of archaeological practice. Most can be downloaded as free .pdf documents. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications
* For more detailed advice on digital archiving, see the advice pages offered by the Archaeology Data Service: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/g2gp.html and http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/.
* [Scotland’s Rural Past](www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk) is a five-year HLF-funded project working across Scotland which provides local communities with an opportunity to get involved with surveying and recording settlement sites in their local areas. SRP have provided a [set of guidance for their groups](http://www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=a...), much of which deals with different archaeological methods.