Geotechnics & Archaeological Prospection (2015-2018)

IWT project Geotechnics & Archaeological Prospection: Coring and cone penetration testing for detection of deeply buried prehistoric paleolandscapes, -soils and sites

The Geotechnics & Archaeological prospection project (IWT n° 150265 in cooperation with Geosonda bvba) aims at integrating geotechnical investigation methods, such as cone penetration testing and mechanical core sampling, in archaeological evaluation strategies of deeply buried prehistoric landscapes, their sediments, soils and sites.

This goal will be achieved through data analysis of existing CPT-E and coring data for identification of distinct peat layers. Implementation of innovative sensors is aimed at detecting more subtle palaeosol horizons. At the same time, further developments in mechanical core sampling for (geo-) archaeological purposes are tested.

In comparison with the current archaeological evaluation methodology of prehistoric landscapes and sites, the integration of geotechnical sounding and coring technology provides prospects for important economic, social and scientific progress.

Improved (geo-)archaeological pre-assessment does not only allow better paleolandscape contextualization to search for and interpret prehistoric sites, but also a better understanding of the interaction of prehistoric humans with environmental (geological, geomorphological) processes.
In addition, insights gained by developing and applying innovative CPT-E sensors and evaluation strategies are applicable in areas outside archaeology, e.g. soil contamination monitoring, (marine) geology, aggregate extraction, unexploded ordnance detection.

An integrated geotechnical, soil contamination and archaeological site assessment for large infrastructure works could also result in economical profit simply through data sharing. Furthermore, a more accurate archaeological evaluation also allows better data driven decisions about further archaeological research, such as invasive research.

A site assessment using geotechnical sounding and coring methods is also minimally destructive and maximally instructive in advance of subsequent more invasive methods. If integrated geotechnical and archaeological assessments are applied in the early stages of the building/development trajectory, construction plans could be adapted towards a minimal invasiveness or timed towards minimal disruption of the building process. In situ preservation of the archaeological heritage is preferred above destructive excavation indeed. Indirectly, the reconstruction and graphical representation of buried paleolandscapes in relation with its prehistoric occupation history helps to increase the awareness of their heritage values.


Prof. Dr. Philippe Crombé, supervisor

Dr. Jeroen Verhegge, researcher

Mick Van den Wijngaert, Geosonda bvba, industrial supervisor