Mining and interpreting archaeo-geophysical data through excavation – a case from prehistoric Knowlton (Dorset, UK).


Identified by aerial photography, the presence of a presumed prehistoric long-barrow and ring ditch called for detailed investigation by targeted excavation. Located in Dorset (UK), the features are presumed part of a larger ritual environment of which the ‘Knowlton Circles’, a complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, are best known.

To aid in planning excavations and add to subsequent interpretation, detailed geophysical prospection, in the form of multi-receiver electromagnetic induction survey, preceded invasive fieldwork. Alongside fine-tuning the excavation layout, the geophysical data were calibrated through recording physical soil properties of the excavated surfaces, and validated archaeologically by comparison to the excavation results.

Alongside evaluating of the survey methodology, the geophysical and excavation data were combined into an iterative interpretation procedure. This entailed joining both datasets on a physical and archaeological level to create a reference point which would not only allow improving future surveys, but enable better understanding of the 3D morphology of detected features, their level of preservation and geological context prior to excavation. While exemplified through a single case study, this presentation aims to show how considering geophysical prospection an inherent part of the excavation process, can help construct a more robust framework for subsequent archaeological interpretation.

Cite this Record

Mining and interpreting archaeo-geophysical data through excavation – a case from prehistoric Knowlton (Dorset, UK).. Samuël Delefortrie, Philippe De Smedt, Mark Gillings, Martin Green, Joshua Pollard. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429250)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17295