What Is Ground Penetrating Radar?

Warwicktowne is likely to produce evidence of building foundations, cellars, trash pits, privies, and wells. These types of features provide a wealth of data about the lifeways of the people living there. In addition, there may be evidence of roads and paths that may provide information about how the town was laid out. In order to pinpoint these remains and maximize the interpretive potential of the site, ground-penetrating radar is being used as part of the archaeological investigation.

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical instrument that sends electromagnetic waves of energy into the ground from an antenna. When those energy waves encounter a change in material below the ground, they reflect back to the surface, and the antenna records the variations. Changes can be based on differences in water saturation between buried materials (e.g. between the soil and geological or archaeological features) or between the soil and certain materials, like metal. The greater the contrast there is between the two materials, the stronger the reflection. The time between when a wave is transmitted and when it is received is measured, which is converted into depth. Archaeologists then use the reflections they collect and the corresponding depth calculations to make three-dimensional maps of features below ground. For example, a buried wall or foundation will produce a series of strong reflections and will appear on three-dimensional maps as a linear feature. The calculated depth indicates the relative age of the buried wall or foundation as older materials will be deeper.