Bridging the scales: model-driven integrative interpretation of archaeological and geophysical data.
Geophysical prospecting in wetland environments is continuously under debate because of the critical unstable environment, but at the same time the richness in cultural heritage. This thesis is part of the interdisciplinary project SFB 1266 of the CRC ‘Scales of transformation’ at Kiel University, which focuses on reconstructing the prehistoric landscape transformation during human occupation. It aims to examine the potential for conventional geophysical survey methods (resistivity, ground penetrating radar and seismics) as site prospection and landscape investigation tools in peatland environments. Two case studies are presented in which multi-geophysical investigations have been performed and validated by archaeological excavations and stratigraphic information. Kettle holes are common ice decay features in formerly glacial landscapes like those in Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany. In 2017 the Horsens Museum (Denmark) carried out a rescue excavation at Tyrsted which revealed Late Palaeolithic flint of the Bromme type (12.000-11.000 BCE) and worked reindeer antlers. Nowadays, the organic artefact inventory from the Bromme culture is largely unknown due to the scarcity of organic remains and the general lack of proper stratigraphic observations. The available dates concentrate in the (late) Allerød and early Younger Dryas chronozones, but unfortunately most of these dating are tentative only. Therefore, this connection in a Late Glacial horizon at Tyrsted is unique and it has the potential to provide new information in the current archaeological debate. The aim is to investigate a small kettle hole (site 8) using ground penetrating radar (GPR), electromagnetic induction (EMI) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) to estimate the extension of the feature. Shear wave reflection and refraction seismics (SH Seismics) were able to detect the whole shape and the bottom sediment of the former lake. Furthermore a seismic event is visible which can be associated to the transition between the Allerød and Younger Dryas sediment making the detection of the Bromme horizon possible. After the non invasive investigation, a location for an open excavation has been chosen in a way to groundtruth the geophysical results allowing the direct comparison with the stratigraphy. These results allow the archaeologists to identify key excavation areas focused on the investigation of the Allerød and Younger Dryas layers in a way to improve the dating information about the Bromme horizon collected so far. At the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers site of Duvensee (10000-6500 BCE) a multi methodological investigation has been carried out too, aiming to reconstruct the ancient landscape during human occupation. GPR, ERT and SH-Seismic have been performed together with corings, DP-EC logs and soil analyses as well for ground-truthing. It turned out that each method is able to distinguish between sediments that differ in grain size, in particular between peat, lake sediment (gyttjas and clay) and basal glacial sand deposits. GPR delivered the location of five former small sand hills that formed islands in the prehistoric lake where clusters of Mesolithic camps have been found. This study delivers depth maps of the three most important sedimentary facies interfaces and a 3D model of the spatio-temporal development of the Duvensee bog which agrees with the spatio-temporal pattern of the previous archaeological finds. GPR is even able to separate between high and low decomposed peat layers which is also clear considering resistivity variations in the ERT computation. From the association between geophysical properties and soil analyses (e.g. water content and organic matter) different gyttjas were distinguished and sismic velocity was correlated to bulk density. Values concerning electrical resistivity, dielectric permittivity, and shear wave velocity have been determined for each sediment and are therefore available to complete and improve the investigation of wetland environments. Both geophysical measurements and sediment analyses presented in this study can finally be useful to map lake sediments in wetland environments offering a potential to shape the common debate regarding wetland heritage management. This thesis concludes that geophysical prospection contributes to wetland archaeology as a tool for site detection and landscape interpretation. Future research should aim to further our understanding of the relationship between geophysical response and peatland soil properties, alongside a more extensive program of surveys and ground-truthing work to improve survey methodologies and archaeological interpretations.
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