Unveiling the prehistoric landscape at Stonehenge through multi-receiver EMI

Philippe De Smedt, Marc Van Meirvenne, Timothy Saey, Eamonn Baldwin, Chris Gaffney, Vincent Gaffney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Archaeological research at Stonehenge (UK) is increasingly aimed at understanding the dynamic of the wider archaeological landscape. Through the application of state-of-the-art geophysical techniques, unprecedented insight is being gathered into the buried archaeological features of the area. However, applied survey techniques have rarely targeted natural soil variation, and the detailed knowledge of the palaeotopography is consequently less complete. In addition, metallic topsoil debris, scattered over different parts of the Stonehenge landscape, often impacts the interpretation of geophysical datasets. The research presented here demonstrates how a single multi-receiver electromagnetic induction (EMI) survey, conducted over a 22 ha area within the Stonehenge landscape, offers detailed insight into natural and anthropogenic soil variation at Stonehenge. The soil variations that were detected through recording the electrical and magnetic soil variability, shed light on the genesis of the landscape, and allow for a better definition of potential palaeoenvironmental and archaeological sampling locations. Based on the multi-layered dataset, a procedure was developed to remove the influence of topsoil metal from the survey data, which enabled a more straightforward identification of the detected archaeology. The results provide a robust basis for further geoarchaeological research, while potential to differentiate between modern soil disturbances and the underlying sub-surface variations can help in solving conservation and management issues. Through expanding this approach over the wider area, we aim at a fuller understanding of the human–landscape interactions that have shaped the Stonehenge landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Early online date5 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


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