Geophysical Surveys

August 06, 2013 Posted by: Matt Kalos
Today, archaeological fieldwork in the United States can be divided into two types: compliance-based archaeology and research-based archaeology. In compliance archaeology, field work is conducted in advance of a construction project that would disturb the earth and therefore would likely destroy any archaeological resources in the area. In compliance archaeology, fieldwork typically NEEDS to get done. On the other hand, research-based archaeology explores specific research questions and has more freedom to explore areas outside of an APE (area of potential effect). So far this summer, the research undertaken has been driven by compliance: the Park plans to build three new interpretive huts; therefore, archaeology must be done in order to make sure that the construction of the new huts will not adversely affect any buried cultural resources. Now, with the APEs adequately explored, the archaeological work taking place at Muhlenberg’s is shifting to more researched based excavations. 
A map of area surveyed using a conductivity test. Not the large anomaly on the West portion of the area.

Image shows the area surveyed using a conductivity test. Note the large anomaly to the West portion of the area.

In December of 2012, the Park performed a geophysical survey in an area to the east of the current Muhlenberg interpretive huts. The geophysical surveys undertaken at include ground-penetrating radar (GPR), magnetometry, electrical conductivity and electrical resistivity. Geophysical surveys are much like going to the doctor to get an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. These tests, like the geophysical tests, show that something is different or abnormal, but they do not necessarily tell you what the abnormality is or why the abnormality exists. Depending on the type of geophysical survey performed, different anomalies can be detected. For example, GPR excels in identifying foundation walls or shaft features; whereas the magnetometer identifies areas of burning or large deposits of iron. A few of the anomalies that we have detected seem to be in a semblance of orderly rows. Perhaps these anomalies represent huts from the encampment? As our field season begins to wind down, we are focusing on testing the anomalies that we have detected using geophysics.    

archaeology, geophysical surveys, Valley Forge, GPR, magnetometry, conductivity, resistivity, excavation

2 Comments Comments icon

  1. August 06, 2013 at 07:08

    I enjoyed stopping by the Muhlenberg Huts and chatting with the people doing the Archaeological work there...fascinating!

  2. August 06, 2013 at 11:27

    Glad to be a part of the Dig this year! Excellent experience! Go Liza and Matt. Hope you find some great things!

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Last updated: August 6, 2013

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