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GPR Applied to Archaeological Investigations for Transportation Projects

Publisher –
Missouri University of Science and Technology, Proceedings: 2006 Conference on Applied Geophysics

Authors –
Jonathan B. Shawver*, GEOVision Geophysical Services, Inc., Corona, California;
Robert M. Orr, Wilbur Smith Associates, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Paper – [pdf] 2006 Shawver Orr-archaelogical

The ground penetrating radar technique is a preferred non-invasive technique to screen sensitive areas for human remains and targets of archaeological interest. While geophysical methods are no substitution for established archaeological field protocols, recent advancements in instrumentation and processing software allow large areas to be screened in a relatively short amount of time, compared with traditional archaeological fieldwork. Case histories will be presented from California, Kansas, and Missouri demonstrating the application of ground penetrating radar techniques applied to various archeological investigations. 2D GPR data were acquired in the City of Leavenworth to screen for unmarked burials outside the recorded boundaries of a late 19th/ early 20th century cemetery that will lie within a proposed right-of-way. A 3D GPR screening of a proposed road expansion was conducted to screen a sensitive property believed by some to be the resting place of a 19th century freed slave. GPR, magnetic, and electromagnetic
techniques were used at a portion of the Los Angeles Crematorium slated for MTA tunnel development.

Most transportation engineers rely on some fashion of archaeological impact report when
designing new transportation right-of-ways or expansion. Large transportation projects including areas with historical significance or sensitivity may not be planned with adequate budgetary concerns for detailed archaeological excavation. This involves a detailed historical documentation research, when available, and may require careful excavation. A properly planned geophysical survey is a cost-effective means of screening these sensitive areas prior to earthwork or excavation. Three case histories are discussed highlighting projects where a geophysical survey was incorporated to screen proposed right-of-way alignments for unmarked burials.