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Bradford technologies offer new ways to uncover our past

Bradford technologies offer new ways to uncover our past

Geoprospecting 'the science of finding features and sites hidden beneath the earth's surface' has become a commonplace archaeological tool, and is familiar to the public via TV programmes such as Time Team.

Bradford researchers were early pioneers of technologies used in geoprospecting which are now used widely throughout the world. The techniques offer a way of uncovering important archaeological finds while minimising damage and disruption to potentially sensitive sites.

The university has built long-term partnerships with leading surveying and manufacturing companies and helped develop new technology and strategies for low-impact survey - Bradford Centre for Archaeological Prospection. These are used by heritage management organisations to inform planners who need detailed archaeological information prior to development work. One of the partners, Geoscan Research, currently supplies these geoprospecting systems throughout the EU.

The wealth of geophysical data produced through geoprospecting presents challenges for archiving and storing. Bradford’s research into this area has influenced the development of new guidelines, including those by the Institute for Archaeologists. It has also underpinned guidance on geophysical survey drawn up by English Heritage, which is recognised worldwide as a benchmark for evaluating sites.

The technology developed at Bradford has not only benefitted large scale surveys, but it has also enabled smaller community-based groups to get in on the act. Thanks, in part, to programmes such as Time Team – to which members of the Bradford geophysical group have been a long-term contributors – public understanding of geoprospecting has grown. Since 2008, the Heritage Lottery Fund has provided more than £1 million to community-led projects that are using geophysics – that’s a great shift away from watching to doing archaeology.

More on Archaeology research at University of Bradford.

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