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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

M. Posselt*
a Posselt&Zickgraf Archäologisch-geophysikalische Prospektionen GbR, Traisa office, Fürthweg 9, D-64367 Mühltal,
Germany, posselt@pzp.de
KEY WORDS: Archaeological Heritage Conservation, Surveying and Mapping, Geophysical and Aerial Methods for
Archaeological Prospection, Interpretation, Recording, Sustainable, Largescale Magnetometer Survey, Multiprobe
By September 2002 the magnetometer survey at the early Islamic site Kharab Sayyar, north-east Syria provides an elaborate idea of
the city's street system showing rectangular and irregular components. The most important result was the detection of a mosque. A
market street (suq) is identified by dozens of small rectangular buildings (shops) filed along both sides of a road crossing the city for
more than 300 m by now. Beside the mosque several large sets of buildings have become visible, from which a pattern of small scale
dwellings can be distinguished. Bastions and a gate situated along the city wall can be viewed in detail.
The presentation focusses on the archaeological interpretation of magnetometer data. It is pictured with the case study of a
magnetometer survey of the Abbasidic city Kharrab Sayyar. It puts strength on the ability of the magnetometer survey to investigate
such a seldomly surveyed type of site within the set of large scale working nondestructive archaeological methods. Its meaning as a
powerful tool to detect, record and monitor large archaeological sites or even landscapes becomes obvious. But although one might
get the impression that magnetometer survey is well established in archaeological fieldwork there is a lack of discussion on its very
own fundamentals and special set of statements compared to other fieldmethods. The full potential of geophysics and especially
magnetometer survey in archaeology is received with a proper interpretation of the data and when all disciplines cooperating in a
research or cultural heritage project are aware of its possibilities and restrictions.
The past decades have seen a growing use of geophysical
methods for large scale non destructive investigations of
archaeological sites. Such trend is not due to efforts to
economize fieldwork only, resulting in a decreasing number of
large excavations. There is also the growing awareness for the
spatial factor in archaeological research (landscape
archaeology). This trend and the enormous exploitation of land
by recent societies are the reason for a still increasing use of
non destructive methods covering large areas. Beside other
methods of remote sensing like aerial photography being used
for archaeology since long, geophysical methods have become
important. Within the latter magnetometer survey plays a major
role in archaeology. It is able to produce detailed maps of sites,
which in some instances seem to show the same resolution as an
excavation. Although geophysical survey never will substitute
excavation, it is a welcome alternative to investigate large areas
of archaeological sites fast and without huge expenses.
Furthermore geophysical survey is a preserving method since it
does not destroy its subject, in contrary to excavation wether its
aim is research or cultural heritage. While often its basic task is
reduced to aid the planning of subsequent excavation it helps
the archaeologist to gain a new viewpoint and therefore
recognize new and often unexpected aspects of the site. With
respect to these qualities magnetometer survey like all other
geophysical methods used in archaeology is an independent
method, which has its very own possibilities and restrictions
allowing a special set of statements about the subject of
research. Along these lines the paper makes use of a casestudy
of a magnetometer survey at a large archaeological site in
northeast Syria and highlights the interpretation of the data as
well as the meaning of its results for research and cultural
heritage management.
Figure 1. Kharrab Sayyar. Area of the Magnetometer survey
pasted to the contour map of the site (contour map: Dipl. Ing.
Matthias Kudella).