Terrestrial Geophysics


The application of geophysical prospecting techniques to the non-invasive detection of buried archaeological features is now considered standard in the evaluation and investigation of archaeological sites and landscapes within both research and commercial archaeology. Over the past decade, VISTA has recognised this potential and invested in a suite of up-to-date geophysical instrumentation covering a range of techniques such as magnetometer, resistance and GPR survey. These techniques are suited to cover a variety of different site and survey conditions, and are extensively employed by VISTA in projects throughout Great Britain, the Mediterranean, and North Africa. VISTA's geophysical staff are highly experienced and can offer expert advice on choosing an appropriate survey strategy.



Marine Geophysics


Marine investigations relay heavily on the use of remote sensing to gain an insight into features which may be inaccessible as a consequence of water or sediment depth. VISTA staff have extensive experience in the interpretation of marine geophysics data and, recently, completed the ALSF funded North Sea Palaeolandscape Project (2006-2008) which investigated over 23,000Km2 of marine survey data in only 18 months. Work at VISTA on the North Sea data has established a new area of research, marine landscape archaeology. Analysis of the massive data sets required for this work is dependant upon the infrastructure and compute capacity available at VISTA , as well as the Centre's exceptional projection facilities. Related work at the Centre involves mitigation projects relating to offshore energy developments, mineral extraction, seabed engineering and the intensification of modern fishery activities. The information derived from this work supports marine environmental management and conservation.


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   Terrestrial Geophysics Projects


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  Marine Geophysics Projects


North Sea Palaeolandscape Project

12,000 years ago, the area that forms the southern North Sea was dry land: a vast plain occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gathers. By 5,500 BC, the entire area had disappeared beneath the sea as global sea levels rose in response to deglaciation. The North Sea Palaeolandscapes Project, sponsored by the ALSF, has used 3D Seismic data collected for mineral exploration to map 23,000Km3 of this 'lost world'. The results demonstrate that the North Sea represents one of the largest and best-preserved prehistoric landscapes in Europe. Not only does this work form the basis for informed resource management, it also provides valuable insights into natural system and human response to rapid climate change, a topic increasingly important to the global community.

[Project Site] [Project PDF]




NOAA - Between salt water and the sea strand: a comparative study of inundated marine palaeolandscapes in the North Sea and the Arabian Gulf.


Lower sea levels during the last Ice Age meant that until c. 9,000 years ago areas of continental shelf, now submerged, were open landscapes inhabited by human communities. Whilst rising sea levels associated with later global climatic warming drowned these areas, it has also preserved them. The submergence of these landscapes has very likely led to a preservation of archaeological deposits unparalleled by terrestrial sites. Both the British continental shelf and the Arabian Gulf contain extensive and unexplored, submerged Late Quaternary and Holocene landscapes. These areas are likely to contain features and caches of high quality environmental data of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene date these landscapes are likely to be key to understanding the complex histories for their regions in relation to climatic change and human migration.

Whilst these important landscapes have been largely inaccessible to archaeologists, recent research at the University of Birmingham (UK) has demonstrated that vast marine geophysical datasets taken for commercial purposes can be used to explore such areas. This research seeks to use existing datasets within the North Sea and the Arabian Gulf to support NOAA’s mission to "revolutionize our knowledge baselines by exploring, characterising and mapping, at new and/or higher scales, the ocean's resources".

The project is strongly interdisciplinary and links earth science and archaeological practice and will disseminate a novel methodology for the efficient and cost-effective use of existing data for heritage purposes. The outputs will inform academics, commercial groups and heritage organizations in a coherent manner that will support management, conservation and development. In doing so the project provides an exemplar for future exploration that can be transferred to similar areas of coastal shelves around the globe.

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