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Keywords:

  • Ground-penetrating radar;
  • multichannel array;
  • high-resolution prospection;
  • Birka and Hovgården;
  • Sweden

Abstract

The Swedish UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site of the Birka and Hovgården Iron Age settlements is well suited for the testing of high-resolution archaeological prospection methods. In May 2006 ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetometer test measurements were conducted at Birka, resulting in data of outstanding quality and new archaeological discoveries, but also demonstrating the need for increased spatial sampling regarding GPR prospection at complex Scandinavian sites. Therefore Birka was selected as a testing ground for a pilot study investigating the suitability of the novel multichannel GPR array system MIRA (MALÅ Imaging Radar Array) for efficient, large-scale GPR surveys with very dense spatial sampling. The study was conducted in May 2008 by MALÅ Geoscience AB in collaboration with the archaeological prospection unit of the Swedish National Heritage Board. The very high-resolution three-dimensional GPR pilot survey demonstrated that it is possible to survey 1 ha and more per day with 8 cm cross-line spacing, mapping archaeological structures in unprecedented resolution, such as postholes of only 25 cm diameter. This paper describes the tested technology and methodology as well as the fieldwork and the results of the study. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.