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Archaeological Geophysics for DoD Field Use: A Guide for New and Novice Users

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Guidance document

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Geophysics is the study of the Earth by quantitative physical methods including magnetometry, electrical resistance, conductivity, magnetic susceptibility and ground penetrating radar, which are used to detect, map, and characterize subsurface phenomena including buried archaeological deposits. An effective use of geophysics can improve the reliability, reduce the invasiveness and, in many cases, lower the overall costs of archaeological investigations Hargrave, et al. 2002 Kvamme, et al. 2006. Despite these potential advantages, the adoption of geophysics by cultural resource management CRM practitioners in the United States has been very gradual. One of the reasons for this is the lack of training opportunities. Although there are some very good short courses, such as the annual National Park Service NPS workshop and periodic Forest Service ground penetrating radar GPR workshops, much more extensive hands on experience is needed for archaeologists to become informed consumers and eventually practitioners of archaeological geophysics. Furthermore, with only a handful of US universities offering formal training, the level of geophysical expertise of recent graduates of archaeological programs provides little promise for the near future. Additional factors that have contributed to the slow adoption of geophysics by archaeologists in the U.S are the relatively high costs of equipment and the methodological conservatism of CRM practitioners and regulatory agencies e.g., State Historic Preservation offices Hargrave, et al. 2002. Confronted with the need or desire to conduct a geophysical survey, an archaeologist with little or no familiarity with geophysics is faced with considerable uncertainty regarding what methods and instruments to use, how much time it will take, how much it will cost, and how to collect, process, and interpret the data.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Geology, Geochemistry and Mineralogy

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