(1Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology | 2Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science, Vienna University, Vienna, Austria)
Keywords: archaeological prospection, landscape archaeology, remote sensing, LIDAR, GPR, magnetometry, GIS, virtual archaeology, integrative interpretation
The main demand on professional archaeological prospection is its ability to cover large areas in a time and cost efficient manner with very high spatial resolution and accuracy. In order to be able to protect archaeological landscapes, these have to be identified and documented, which for various reasons presents an archaeological challenge: The massive threat of destruction and deterioration of buried cultural heritage demands for fast, efficient and reliable methods for its identification, documentation and interpretation. At the same time, the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valletta-Convention) states that non-destructive investigation methods should be applied wherever possible (ETS N143, article 3).
Therefore, large-scale applications of non-invasive archaeological prospection methods (e.g. aerial archaeology, airborne laser scanning (ALS), airborne imaging spectroscopy (AIS) and all kinds of near-surface geophysical prospection like magnetometry and GPR comprise a great potential. These methods provide both landscape archaeologists and planning authorities with the necessary spatial information at multiple scales, ranging from the archaeological site to a complete archaeological landscape. However, scientific archaeological prospection requires the implementation and adherence to the highest technical standards in regard to instrumentation, spatial sampling intervals, positioning accuracy, data processing and visualization, as well as appropriate novel methodological concepts for the archaeological interpretation of individual sites and archaeological landscapes. This requirement demands coordinated fundamental research aimed at the development and improvement of new ways to acquire the basic data sets, and to extract their archaeologically relevant information by means of well-thought, integrative interpretation tools.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is the leading case study initiated by the LBI ArchPro to demonstrate the state-of-the-art by prospecting the landscape around the iconic stone circle. The respective developments into hard- and software, logistics, methodological concepts and dissemination strategies made the project to the largest investigation of its kind ever successfully undertaken and is benchmarking future landscape archaeological research.