Non-Invasive Landscape Archaeology of the Great War (2014-2018)

Ghent University (BOF-GOA) is using non-invasive techniques to study the archaeological conflict landscape of the Great War

Studiegebied met overzicht van WO I inventarisatie
Overview of the study area with WW1 inventory based on aerial imagery

The World War I Western Front is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world. We developed an entirely non-invasive approach, consisting of an integration of contemporary aerial photography, landscape research and geophysical soil sensing, to assess this vast war heritage. Preliminary results suggest an excellent subsurface preservation of the conflict landscape. Inevitable considerations about the need for preservation of these remains and questions about the presence, nature, diversity and value of this heritage require an interdisciplinary non-invasive approach conducted on a landscape scale.

Georeferenced historical aerial photographs are an excellent point of departure to study the war landscape at different times during the war. To account for the present-day remains of the features visible on the high-resolution aerial photographs these are combined with archaeological field surveys or LiDAR data in search for above ground remains and geophysical research that gives an idea of archaeologically preserved subsurface features. The geophysical soil sensing is done using a mobile multi-receiver electromagnetic induction (EMI) instrument, that records the soil variability from multiple overlapping soil volumes by measuring simultaneously the electrical conductivity and magnetic susceptibility at multiple coil configurations.

Historical WW1 aerial photography

  • About 22.000 aerial images
  • Photo interpretation and inventory of features

Landscape research

  • Landscape characterisation
  • Landscape trajectories from WW1 to the present

More about landscape research

Geophysical soil sensing

  • Detection and characterisation of WW1 features
  • EMI, magnetometry, ground radar...

And more...


Dr. Wouter Gheyle

Dr. Birger Stichelbaut

Prof. dr. Jean Bourgeois