Archaeological Geophysics and Precision Farming: How can these two sectors integrate, assessment of potential and directions for future research.

Henry R Webber

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


Precision farming consists of a number of technologies that enable the recording and management of soil, and crop, variation to produce food in a more efficient and sustainable way. As part of this, companies are using geophysical sensors to map soil variation over 100,000s of hectares in the UK and assessing those variations through more targeted soil surveying and soil sampling.

Archaeological geophysics has become an essential tool for studying and understanding archaeological sites and landscapes through detailed surveys. By using technologically advanced non-invasive sensors, the development of more multi-technique platforms and better software, archaeological geophysics has important skills, knowledge and expertise in researching soil variations.

Both subjects regard soil data as essential for their studies, yet they have both remained in relative isolation to each other. With the rise of precision farming, and the importance of archaeological geophysics, what potential is there for integration, data exchange and future research linking the two subjects?

Through four selected topics; site management, combined geophysical platforms, robotics and automated surveys, and big data and accessibility. The contrasts and comparisons were made and the likely potential from each topic was extracted. There exists significant potential to provide short term benefits to archaeological geophysics in the exchange of existing geophysical data if problems over data protection can be mitigated. There could also be wider benefits for this data to aid archaeo-geophysical surveying and interpretation, as well as heritage management. In the longer term, further research of magnetic techniques for precision farming and the development of automated survey systems in archaeological geophysics will provide more efficient use of time, labour and data. This research is being continued more practically since it is a key resource linking knowledge of the soil for global food production with knowledge gained through archaeological investigations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014


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