Hopes and Dreams for Fieldwork in 2018

In a previous blog (you can read it here) we revealed the results from our last season at Libarna, and with the countdown ever diminishing, it’s now time to think about the work we will be doing this summer. We have spent the last two years collecting data with our resistivity meter and the drone, and now with our new piece of equipment, the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), we hope to search for structures even further below ground that our other methods couldn’t see. But we won’t just be working on areas we haven’t been able to get results from, we also hope to run the GPR in areas we have used the other equipment. Why, you might ask, if you’ve already got results? What’s the point in going over the same place twice?

Well, do you remember from science class at school, the first rule of making something a fair test and ensuring an accurate outcome? Double check your results! Doing something once doesn’t guarantee that your answer is correct. In a similar vein, we use different techniques over the same area of ground to ensure that all the results match up, and we haven’t got fluke data from one machine caused by the weather, user error (it happens), or other environmental factors. This way we can take all the data, from all the different machines, compare them, and create a more definitive plan of what the city once looked like.

2017-07-13 14.36.20
Getting to grips with the GPR

This year we won’t be using any other techniques, just GPR, and the reason for this is quite simple – we’ve already got a lot of data from the other equipment. Some might argue that you can never have enough data, but the truth is, we’re still evaluating and processing our results from the last two years. New data will be more of a hindrance than a help at this point. We are hoping to use the GPR in a few new fields, particularly in areas where we don’t anticipate good results from other techniques, but mostly we want to see if we get the same, or better, results in fields we’ve already gone over with the RES and the drone. This way we can be a lot more certain of our findings.

We won’t be entirely sure which fields we can work in until we arrive and find out which areas are in crop and which have already been harvested. We only survey harvested fields so as not to damage the plants! Occasionally, we might get notice a week or two before, but because farming is so dependent on the weather, we often have to just wait and see what happens. Fields can also be harvested while we are on site, which means that we can get to work as soon as the newly formed hay bales have been moved (sometimes we get a bit impatient and help the farmers out)!

Helping move the hay bales!

In addition to having too much data to process, the more equipment we having running at a time, the more spread out we are over the site, and the harder it can be for students to really get familiar with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. With only one piece of equipment, they can get really proficient with this particular technique, and it also gives us time to introduce them to other aspects of archaeology more thoroughly. Things like examining finds from previous excavations, and allowing students to really understand the details of what work has gone on at the site and how it enhances our understanding of the history of Libarna.

Having less equipment doesn’t mean that there will be less time spent working, it just means that we can fit in other activities that occasionally have to fall by the wayside when we have data to collect. Primarily, this project is a field school, so the education element of the work is one of our main priorities. If they’re not needed out in the field with the GPR, our students will be taking tours of the site, learning about previous excavations, the wider area of northwestern Italy in the Roman period, archaeological drawing, osteology, data entry, and a great many other things that are crucially important to archaeology.

Students completing a mapping exercise

In addition to these tasks on site, we also ensure that all of our students write a journal about their experiences, and they also have daily questions to answer about the work we have been doing and new things they have learnt. We’ll be going into more detail about the specific education aspect of the project in a future blog, but we try to make sure that students leave the project having gained a wide variety of new skills and knowledge.

And there you have it! Our plan for 2018 is…collect GPR data! It might sound simple, but there’s a lot that goes into the data collection, and of course the very important processing afterwards! We’re only 41 days away from the beginning of the season, but there’s still a lot that can’t be planned just yet. We make sure that staff members arrive several days before the students so that we can work out a plan for the first week and get students to work as soon as they arrive (after a few days acclimatisation of course)!



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