ARCH06038 2019 Geophysical Surveying and Processing (Theory)

General Details

Full Title
Geophysical Surveying and Processing (Theory)
Transcript Title
Geophysical Surveying and Proc
N/A %
Subject Area
ARCH - Archaeology
ESCI - Environmental Science
06 - NFQ Level 6
05 - 05 Credits
Start Term
2019 - Full Academic Year 2019-20
End Term
9999 - The End of Time
James Bonsall
Programme Membership
SG_SAPPL_H08 201900 Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Archaeology SG_SAPPL_B07 201900 Bachelor of Science in Applied Archaeology SG_SAPPL_C06 201900 Higher Certificate in Science in Applied Archaeology

This module covers the theoretical principles of archaeological geophysics and prospection and the application of various computer programs that allow the processing of geophysical data and its integration with other forms of information. Students will study how different instruments measure geophysical properties of the earth and relate those to archaeological sources. Students will carry out a range of practical experiments and a geophysical survey of a local archaeological site. 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the learner will/should be able to;


Describe the basic principles of the main geophysical techniques that might be applied in an archaeological context


Evaluate the merits and limitations of different geophysical prospection methods, data processing and interpretation


Theorise, plan and develop geophysical solutions to archaeological problems


Demonstrate basic knowledge of the use and application of dedicated computer programs for processing and presenting geophysical data


Analyse, evaluate and draw conclusions from geophysical data obtained in the field and/or data presented in problem-solving exercises

Communicate data and concepts related to geophysical survey in archaeology using written, graphical and oral media

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Delivered via Lectures, Practicals and a Fieldtrip. The lectures will focus on the theorectical concepts of archaeological geophysics. The practical elements will allow the student to carry out basic assessments of soils and sediments and study the principles of magnetism and resistivity within a laboratory environment. Practicals will also present the student with real-world problems for them to solve. Outdoor practicals and a fieldtrip will allow the students to collect geophysical data and contribute to part of a wider archaeological project.

Module Assessment Strategies

1. The student will be assessed by presenting a grey-literature geophysical report to the group and communicate effectively their assessment of the success/failure of the outcomes.

2. The student will write their own 200-500 word abstract of a published scientific paper within a limited 1 hour practical environment. This will develop the students ability to critically asses detailed scientific data and synthesise the results in to a readable, accurate and informative abstract.

3. The student will complete a series of practical laboratory and field tasks to demonstrate their theoretical knowledge of archaeological geophysical techniques.

4. The student complete an MCQ to assess their theoretical knowledge and answer a series of directed problem-solving exercises.


Repeat Assessments

Standard Procedures Apply

Module Dependencies

ENVR06041 201900 Earth Science ARCH06028 201900 Archaeology of Ireland None

Indicative Syllabus

  1. Introduction to geophysical prospection in archaeology including a history of archaeological geophysics
  2. Examination of the reasons for geophysical survey in archaeology and reasons for choice of method
  3. Writing a geophysical report and reviewing geophysical reports
  4. Introduction to the concept of an integrated survey methodology and the importance of an accurately located geophysical survey grid
  5. Introduction to magnetic prospection
  6. Magnetic Susceptibility technique, principles, instrumentation, survey procedure, data processing requirements and case studies
  7. Magnetometry, principles, instrumentation, survey procedure, data processing and case studies
  8. Introduction to Resistivity survey
  9. The resistivity technique, principles, instrumentation, survey procedure, data processing and case studies
  10. Electrical Resistivity Imaging, principles, instrumentation, survey procedure, data processing and case studies
  11. Ground Penetrating Radar, principles, instrumentation, survey procedure, data processing and case studies
  12. Data and image processing, interpretation and integration of results with archaeological data

Coursework & Assessment Breakdown

Coursework & Continuous Assessment
60 %
End of Semester / Year Formal Exam
40 %

Coursework Assessment

Title Type Form Percent Week Learning Outcomes Assessed
1 Write an Abstract to a Scientific Paper Continuous Assessment Group Project 10 % Week 4 3,5,6
2 Presentation Continuous Assessment Assessment 20 % Week 7 1,2,5,6
3 Geophysical Skills Passport Practical Individual Project 30 % OnGoing 2,3,4

End of Semester / Year Assessment

Title Type Form Percent Week Learning Outcomes Assessed
1 Final Exam Final Exam Multiple Choice 40 % End of Term 1,2,3,4,5

Full Time Mode Workload

Type Location Description Hours Frequency Avg Workload
Lecture Science Laboratory Lecture 3 Weekly 3.00
Independent Learning UNKNOWN Self Study 4 Weekly 4.00
Total Full Time Average Weekly Learner Contact Time 3.00 Hours

Module Resources

Non ISBN Literary Resources

Aspinall, A., Gaffney, C. & Schmidt, A. 2008. Magnetometry for Archaeologists. Lanham: AltaMira Press 

Bonsall, J., Gaffney, C. and Armit, I. 2014. A Decade of Ground Truthing: Reappraising Magnetometer Prospection Surveys on Linear Corridors in light of Excavation evidence 2001-2010. In H. Kamermans, M. Gojda and A.G. Posluschny (eds). A Sense of the Past: Studies in current archaeological applications of remote sensing and non-invasive prospection methods. BAR International Series 2588. Oxford, Archaeopress, pp3-17. 

Bonsall, J, Gaffney, C & Armit, I. 2014. Preparing for the Future: A reappraisal of archaeo-geophysical surveying on Irish National Road Schemes 2001-2010. Report for the National Roads Authority.  

Bonsall, J. and Gaffney, C. 2016. ‘Change is Good: Adapting Strategies for Archaeological Prospection in a Rapidly Changing Technological World’ in F. Boschi (Ed.) Looking to the Future, Caring for the Past: Preventive Archaeology in Theory and Practice. Bononia University Press. Bologna, pp41-58. 

Boschi, F. 2016. Looking to the Future, Caring for the Past: Preventive Archaeology in Theory and Practice. Bononia University Press. Bologna.‚Äč

Campana S. and Piro S. 2009.Seeing the unseen – Geophysics and landscape archaeology. CRC Press, London 

Clark, A. 1990. Seeing Beneath the Soil. Routledge 

Conyers, L. B. 2004. Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology. AltaMira Press, Plymouth 

Conyers, L. B. 2012. Interpreting Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology. AltaMira Press, Plymouth 

Fassbinder, J.W.E., Stanjekt, H. Vali, H. 1990. Occurrence of magnetic bacteria in soil. Nature 343, 161 - 163 (11 January 1990); doi:10.1038/343161a0 

Fassbinder, J.W.E. 2015. Seeing beneath the farmland, steppe and desert soil: magnetic prospecting and soil magnetism, Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 56, April 2015, pp85-95 ( 

Gaffney, C. & Gater, J. 2003. Revealing the Buried Past: Geophysics for Archaeologists. Tempus. 

Gaffney, C., Gaffney, V., Neubauer, W., Baldwin, E., Chapman, H., Garwood, P., Moulden, H., Sparrow, T., Bates, R., Löcker, K., Hinterleitner, A., Trinks, I., Nau, E., Zitz, T., Floery, S., Verhoeven, G. and Doneus, M. (2012), The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. Archaeological Prospection, 19: 147–155. doi:10.1002/arp.1422 

Le Borgne E. 1955. Abnormal magnetic susceptibility of the top soil. Annals of Geophysics 11: 399–419. 

Marshall, A. (2001), Functional analysis of settlement areas: prospection over a defended enclosure of iron age date at The Bowsings, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire, UK. Archaeological Prospection, 8: 79–106. doi:10.1002/1099-0763(200106)8:2<79::AID-ARP150>3.0.CO;2-W 

Schmidt, A. & Ernenwein, E. 2013. Geophysical Data in Archaeology - A Guide to Good Practice. Oxbow Books. 

Schmidt, A. 2013. Earth Resistance for Archaeologists. AltaMira Press, Plymouth 

Schmidt, A., Linford, P., Linford, N. David, A., Gaffney, C., Sarris, A. and Fassbinder, J. 2016. Guidelines for the use of geophysics in archaeology. Questions to Ask and Points to Consider. EAC Guidelines 2.


Journal Resources

Archaeological Prospection


Journal of Archaeological Science

Journal of Applied Geophysics

Annals of Geophysics





URL Resources

English Heritage Geophysical Survey Database:

National Roads Authority / Transport Infrastructure Ireland Archaeological Geophysical Database:


Other Resources

You will be supplied with access to IT Sligo online e-learner software, such as Moodle.

Additional Information