Being able to clearly see what lies underground would solve many headaches for archaeologists.

There is a certain level of guesswork that goes into planning a dig, and only after the available time, money, and manpower has been spent does it become clear whether or not it was worth the investment. However, a professor at Tel Aviv University has developed a new tool that potentially could offer some help in taking the guesswork out of deciding where to dig.

Reported recently in the journal Advances of Geosciences, Prof. Eppelbaum’s new tool gathers data from a number of sources — including radio transmitters used to communicate with nuclear submarines and detailed magnetic field observations — and applies an original algorithmic approach to the measurements to make sense of what lies below the earth’s surface at depths of up to several dozen yards. His tool can help people “see” meaningful objects, artefacts or civilizations — – and lay them out in a four-dimensional chart.

While methods exist for scanning sites of potential archaeological and geological importance, such tools produce significant background noise or inconclusive readings, Prof. Eppelbaum says. …

His tool can be used to evaluate the possible archaeological significance of any given area under scrutiny. Providing rapid results within days or even hours, the algorithm can “read” extensive data before any digging or exploration begins. Financially, technically and ecologically, this tool offers an optimal way to localize and classify ancient buried objects and estimate the potential of the further archaeological investigations, he says.

Prof. Eppelbaum’s solution is called the “multi-PAM,” which stands for “physical — archaeological models.” The tool first interprets what it “sees” by recognizing image targets; then the interpretation can be used to develop a four-dimensional model which can be presented to archaeologists hoping to explore a particular region.

Placed in a small unmanned airplane hovering several yards off the ground and scanning wide tracts of land along the earth’s surface, Prof. Eppelbaum says, the tool can reveal unexplored sites of historical and archaeological significance.

You can read the full post here. A shorter article can be found here.

According to one of the posts, this tool is already in use in some archaeological projects. Does anyone have any personal experience with one? Would you care to share your opinion?

The catalyst for this news event apparently was a post on the website of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. This post looks back at the publication of a paper that Prof. Eppelbaum presented in April 2009. The paper is titled: “Archaeological geophysics in Israel: past, present and future.” This paper (along with several others on similar topics) was published in the open access journal called Advances in Geosciences (ADGEO) in 2010. The abstract of Eppelbaum’s paper and a link to download the article can be found here. A list of all the articles in that volume can be found here. For those who desire to learn more about modern techniques for non-intrusive archaeological investigation, this volume is a good place to start.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer