Ephemeral features and evolving landscapes: understanding mankind’s (in-)visibility in the archaeo-geophysical record.

Author(s): Philippe De Smedt

Year: 2017


Geophysical prospection methods are coming of age as a standard part of the archeological toolkit. Archaeologists, especially in Europe, are increasingly reliant on geophysical data in both developer-led and research archaeology. More recently, archaeological geophysics is bridging the gap between site and landscape through motorized survey strategies. This upscaling particularly highlights a number of methodological difficulties inherent to geophysical prospecting. A first follows its non-invasive character as, by approaching the subsurface from top to bottom, any geophysical result reflects a palimpsest stacking the most recent to the most ancient land-use traces within one dataset. Secondly, while the range of geophysical methods is diverse, each method’s potential correlates strongly to the targeted geological context. Lastly, the ephemeral nature of specific types of archaeology warrants caution in implementing these methods. Settlement traces of hunter-gatherer societies, for instance, often remain invisible to geophysical prospecting and, in general, prehistoric archaeology is the most evasive in geophysical datasets.

Here, archaeological ‘invisibility’ in geophysical datasets will be addressed, while discussing the influence of recent land-use and geology on the interpretive potential of such data. Additionally, a basic framework relevant to archaeologists working with geophysical prospection data will be set out, illustrated through different case studies.

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Ephemeral features and evolving landscapes: understanding mankind’s (in-)visibility in the archaeo-geophysical record.. Philippe De Smedt. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429341)

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Abstract Id(s): 16762