For the past 14 years, Dr. Tatyana Smekalova, has been significantly involved in various archaeological projects aimed at uncovering the mysteries of human history. Her research and collaborations have led her to explore archaeological sites in a diverse range of countries, including Armenia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden (Skane), Syria, Turkey, and Wales. This journey is not only an adventure but also a domain where the science of magnetics is crucial.
As noted by Dr. Smekalova, “magnetometer surveys are one of the most effective and universal among geophysical methods for archaeological applications. Many objects can be readily distinguished at surface according to the characteristic anomalies associated with them. Magnetic prospecting (in favourable conditions) has also proven itself as the most effective, fast and non-destructive method for the investigation of archaeological sites. As well, the information obtained is very similar to that revealed during archaeological excavations.”
The reasons for the effectiveness of magnetics in archeology are related to several factors, including alteration of magnetic properties due to fire and magnetic susceptibility contrasts in soils. The image below shows some of the anomalies associated with various magnetic artifacts.
In ancient days, the use of fire for heating, cooking, production and industry changed the magnetic properties of clay, stones and earth – to the extent that they can be readily mapped using magnetometers. Earthen structures typically exhibit local magnetic anomalies in the range of 1-20 nT whereas “fired” structures can range between 10 to 1000 nT. Ferrous objects, including iron-smelting slag blocks, are rarer with anomalies that range between 20 to 2,000 nT.
Variations in magnetic susceptibility between topsoil, subsoil and rocks (topsoil is normally more magnetic than subsoil) are another important factor. These variations make it possible to detect ditches, pits and other silted-up features that were excavated and then silted or back-filled with topsoil. Back-filled areas produce positive anomalies. Conversely, less magnetic material introduced into topsoil, including many kinds of masonry (for example, limestone walls) produce negative anomalies on the order of 2 to 12 nT.
Dr. Smekalova uses a variety of systems, including:
The GEM Overhauser gradiometer GSM-19WG as a main instrument GEM_Overhauser_Brochure
Results are documented in a publication, called “Magnetic Prospecting in Archeology” that shows results from many types of sites, including:
You can access Dr. Smekalova’s case histories by selecting from the list below. These resources provide a fascinating look into some of the artifacts left by our ancestors in many parts of the world, and are filled with many examples of geophysical data, ancient maps and artifacts.
Resources made available courtesy of Dr. Tatyana Smekalova. All rights reserved.
In addition the high sensitivity Potassium Magnetometers are ideal for looking for the most subtle features. These systems can be carried or mounted on towed specially designed carts.
UAV’s may also play a role for rapid collection of data over large fields.
GEM AirBIRD UAV Turnkey High Sensitivity Magnetometer