Conference Report

Archaeological Prospection 1995

Bradford, UK, 12-13 September 1995

Variety was certainly the keynote of the Archaeological Prospection 1995 conference, held at the University of Bradford, UK, on 12th and 13th September. The techniques discussed ranged from acoustic probing of the shallow subsurface to photo-imaging of features hidden beneath the plaster of standing buildings; the scale varied from the interpretation of a magnetic anomaly from a single posthole to aerial photography covering the East Anglian Fens, and the geographical areas represented were as diverse as Slovakia, Turkey, Japan and China. Despite the diversity, common themes ran through the sessions, particularly emphasizing the challenge of improving and refining the interpretation of results and the need for maintaining and monitoring professional standards.

The organizing committee was drawn from the Department of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, Geophysical Surveys of Bradford and Geoscan Research. Their aim was to provide a forum for the discussion of a series of detailed and specific papers on aspects of archaeological prospection, while still attracting the participation of archaeologists and other users of the results obtained from these techniques. There is often insufficient time for such detailed discussions at meetings with broader themes such as Archaeometry, but archaeologists are poorly rep-resented at more specialist geophysics meetings. The conference seemed to have found an appropriate niche as it attracted 80 participants from 10 different countries, including those involved in research and development, practitioners of prospection and those who use the results.

The conference commenced with a session entitled Determining Problems and Suggesting Solutions in Shallow Depth Determination. The papers discussed the potential and problems of determining the depth of archaeological features from the anomalies detected by methods as diverse as ground penetrating radar, acoustic probing, seismic refraction and resistivity measurements. This led into a session looking at The Interplay Between Display and Interpretation in which recent developments in the processing, interpretation and final presentation of information provided by geophysical techniques were presented. The first day concluded with a session entitled Aspects of Remote Sensing in Archaeology, which took participants from aerial photography in the UK and Slovakia, back down to earth with an examination of ground based remote sensing of standing buildings, and discussed how such diverse information might be combined to aid interpretation.

The second day began with a series of papers on Soil Science in Prospection, which focused particularly on the use of magnetic susceptibility and phosphate analysis in archaeological prospection, innovative ways in which they can be measured and the limitations of the techniques. In order to direct attention to the application of many of the methods and techniques previously discussed in the conference, much of the remainder was taken up with Archaeological Prospection in Action. The seven papers in this session presented results from prospection at sites including the settlement mound at Troia; a Hittite settlement in Turkey; a Medieval refuge and Celtic and Roman house and temple in Germany; graves in San Xia, China; hillforts and a Roman Fort and Vicus in England and a broch site in Shetland. Papers with broader themes also discussed the development in the use of geophysical techniques in Ireland and China. This session provided impressive evidence of what can be achieved by prospection on archaeological sites. The conference concluded with a wide-ranging structured discussion session entitled Practice and Professional Standards in Archaeological Geophysics in which delegates looked towards future expansion in the use of archaeological geophysics and how this might be encouraged, while still ensuring the maintenance of professional standards.

The oral presentations were supplemented by 14 poster presentations and a variety of commercial displays of software and hardware.

Discussions with participants suggested that the conference provided a useful overview of current research in archaeological prospection and helped towards setting the agenda for the future. The meeting was supported by Wileys, publishers of the journal Archaeological Prospection, and many of the papers will be published in forthcoming issues, giving readers of this review the opportunity to see for themselves the diversity of recent developments in archaeological prospection.

Contributed by Dr. Cathy Batt
Department of Archaeological Sciences
University of Bradford
Bradford, BD7 1DP United Kingdom
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