Sonntag, 3. April 2011

Investigating the Romans with a Garden Tractor

Mid of march an international project started at the Swabian Alb to investigate the roman and medieval countryside. In the meantime mor than 1 km² has been covered by magnetics and radar.

A common press release of Ludwig-Boltzmann Institut for Archaeological Prosepction (Vienna) and RGZM (Mainz) has been published after a press conference at Bräunisheim.
(Foto LBI ArchPro)

The latest technology has been applied to the investigation of the past to provide novel insights into the complex interaction between prehistoric societies and the environment. Millennia of human occupation have left traces in the subsurface – traces that still be located in large areas today using state-of-the-art geophysical measurement technologies.
An international team of archaeologists, IT experts and geophysicists are using the latest technological developments for the mapping and reconstruction of past settlement in Swabia, in south-west Germany. For the past two weeks peculiar vehicles have been driven over fields and meadows. What appears to be a tractor, with a front mounted lawn mower, is actually a high-tech ground penetrating radar system. Long, white carts pulled by Quad-bikes remind spectators of grasshoppers, but are actually highly sensitive instruments registering tiny variations of the Earth's magnetic field. These archaeological prospection devices are used to map traces of long-gone settlements and other remains of early land use.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, founded in 2010 in Vienna, along with the renowned Römisch-Germanische Zentralmuseum founded in Mainz in1852 (today more a research institute for prehistoric and protohistoric archaeology than a museum), are collaborating, with Baden-Württemberg's state Department for the Preservation of Monuments, to explore an area measuring 20 square kilometres between the hamlets of Waldhausen and Stubersheim in the framework of a perennial research project.
From March 14th over 70 hectares of area were surveyed with high-resolution measurements in only two weeks. Initial data analysis shows a surprisingly densely populated Roman cultural landscape. Two Roman estates were mapped near the village of Bräunisheim and these had numerous architectural details including an inner courtyard lined with columns and under floor heating for the baths. Structures indicating grave monuments were also discovered nearby. Alongside the known Roman road leading from the Roman fort at Urspring to Heidenheim mapping clearly show the remains of a settlement that apparently consisted of wooden structures. Possibly these belonged to the lost hamlet of Wolfgerswilar, which was been mentioned in a papal record in 1225.
While magnetometer surveys are particularly suited to detect pits, postholes, trenches, hearths and iron smelting ovens, ground penetrating radar permits the generation of three dimensional maps of buried walls and ground disturbances. The use of highly detailed terrain models, generated from airborne laser scanning, allows archaeologists to locate archaeological sites in wooded areas. The research project is dedicated to the development of non-invasive technologies for the large-scale mapping of buried archaeological heritage. Motorized measurement devices and advanced global positioning systems are used in order to achieve unprecedented measurement resolution and precision. The information value of data images depends on the size of the mapped areas and, for the first time it is now possible to archaeologically map entire settlement landscapes, instead of individual sites. Data at this scale is unprecedented and it supports archaeologists to explore the complex interactions between past societies and their environment.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology ( is a research institute of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft ( and was founded in 2010. The institute carries out its research activities together with several international partner organisations and aims to create a network of archaeological scientists supporting interdisciplinary research programmes for the development of large scale, efficient, non-invasive technologies for the discovery, documentation, visualisation and interpretation of Europe's archaeological heritage. The lead partners of the institute based in Vienna, are the University of Vienna (A), the Vienna University of Technology (A), the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (A), the Province of Lower Austria (A),RGZM-Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz (D), RAÄ-Swedish National Heritage Board (S); IBM VISTA-University of Birmingham (GB) and NIKU-Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (N)."


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