For anyone that has seen the famous Indiana Jones movies or the Jurassic Park films, there is something magical about archaeology. The detail and patience required in a dig to find some hidden treasure or long lost link to the past is a beautiful thing. It is tough work but when it is finally complete and you find the lost DNA of a dinosaur or a priceless skull it is all worth that effort. Of course, it is not particularly efficient either. In modern times archaeologists are trying to find new ways to explore historic landmarks with something called GPR changing the game. This new technology may revolutionize how archaeology is conducted in the future.
GPR or Ground Penetrating Radar is a similar process to how Xray works on the human body. When you have a broken bone the doctors don’t immediately cut you open. That would be time-consuming, expensive, and dangerous. Instead, they pop you behind an Xray machine and get to see your bone structure without the surgery. If there is then an issue they will operate. GPR works in the same way. It is able to provide a picture of what lies underneath the ground in a detailed manner without the need for any digging.
While archaeology looks great in the movies it is not always so exciting. Imagine the countless digs that take place that in the end reveal absolutely nothing. There are so many digs where there are no historic prizes found or the things that are found were not worth the effort. These digs even if they do reveal some great artifacts take a very long time with years often being dedicated to some. While history is not going anywhere the focus of museums and historic investigations can change and time is often a concern. The price associated with these digs can be enormous. To lease or buy the large construction equipment for so many months, to hire the number of people required to complete such a large scale operation, to bring the different areas of expertise required, it all costs money. Of course, there is a danger to these digs too. One wrong move with a hammer or piece of construction equipment and the very prize you are seeking could be ruined forever. Archaeologists are highly skilled at their work and these mistakes don’t happen often, but when they do they are an expensive mistake.
This is where GPR comes in. The most common application of GPR is to prospect a site. This means to examine what lies underneath the ground to determine if it is actually worth digging any further. This service is quick and although expensive, the cost is incredibly low compared to the number of digs that have taken place in the past without any reward. By completing a GPR you at least know what you will find under the ground. However, some experts say that only using GPR for prospecting a site is missing its true potential. The GPR is best used to explore sites in great detail.
GPR works by sending soundwaves into the ground. These soundwaves bounce back when they hit a solid object and so can map out an entire area relatively easily. The process is still quite long with a 2.5-acre site taking approximately 20 hours. Although that is nothing to the months that a 2.5-acre site would take to dig.
The technology was recently used at a former Roman settlement called Falerii Novi and has proved incredibly useful. Using the technology alone experts were able to identify a bathhouse, a theater, a market, and a temple. In addition, they found a long route surrounding the city that led to a gigantic monument. If they had been only digging the site they likely never would have strayed so far from the center of the town and would have missed this monument. This is something that will now likely be dug up but GPR is to thank for the discovery.