75779 - Application of Geophysics to Archaeology (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Federica Boschi

  • Credits 6

  • SSD GEO/11

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale

  • Course Timetable from Sep 18, 2023 to Oct 26, 2023


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Industry, innovation and infrastructure Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student acquires an in-depth knowledge of the main methods of geophysical investigation for archaeology; she/he knows the general principles of the different prospecting techniques, the possible applications and the achievable results; she/he has a basic knowledge of the most used methodologies of archaeological diagnostics and remote sensing. In particular, the student is able to: - plan underground investigations in different archaeological contexts; - orient oneself in planning geophysical investigations (with reference to research objectives, geological, morphological, logistic and economic conditions); - analyse experimental data related to the investigation methods described in the course; interpret the data obtained in relation to the aims of the archaeological research.

Course contents

The teaching programme is divided into three parts. The first is an introduction to geophysical techniques and, more generally, to the archaeological diagnostics. The second is a theoretical analysis through the presentation and critical discussion of case studies. The third part of practical and technical deepening, through practical demonstrations that involve the use of the instrumentation exposed during the lectures, as well as the acquisition, processing and representation of real data collected with different survey techniques.
First part: Introduction to archaeological diagnostic imaging, with a brief introduction to the main remote sensing techniques used in archaeology (satellite images, LiDAR, aerial photography). Geophysics applied to archaeology: history and contents. History of the discipline and first experiences in the field (Anglo-Saxon, Northern European and Italian schools). Scale of analysis and context of study. Geophysics and Landscape Archaeology. Preventive Archaeology and non-invasive investigations: disciplinary definition; in-depth examination of the Italian legislation of reference; evaluation in archaeology; foreign experiences; methods, sources and techniques for preventive archaeology both on land and underwater. Basic framework on geophysical prospecting techniques (electrical, magnetic, radar, seismic, gravimetric) and methodological in-depth study of the most used investigation methods in archaeological applications: magnetometry, georadar, ERT resistivity (theoretical notes and case histories).
Second part: Through the presentation of case studies and international research projects, some key issues are addressed and deepened: Integration of different methods of prospecting and archaeological diagnostics. Remote sensing and extensive geophysics. Large, medium and small scale archaeological problems. Geophysical surveys at various scales. Extensive and detailed topographic surveys. The importance of the investigation context and its knowledge. The contribution of geophysics and diagnostics in general to landscape and urban archaeology. The archaeological reading and interpretation of data. Representation and management of data in the GIS environment.
Third part: Geophysical instrumentation and its practical use. Use of softwares dedicated to 2D and 3D geophysical data processing and representation. Practical exercises on real situations (experimental field, archaeological site). Reading and interpretation of geophysical data and their integration with other remote sensing data (aerial photography, satellite images, LiDAR).


Attending students, in addition to personal notes of the lessons, are required to study the following texts:

- F. Boschi. Archeologia senza scavo. Geofisica e indagini non invasive. Bononia University Press 2020.

- An article of your choice from one of the volumes: S. Campana, S. Piro (eds.). Seeing the Unseen. Geophysics and landscape archaeology. CRC Press 2009, or F. Boschi (ed.). Looking to the Future, Caring for the Past. Preventive Archaeology in theory and practice. Bologna University Press 2016.


The preparation of the exam of non-attending students presupposes the study of:

1) F. Boschi. Archeologia senza scavo. Geofisica e indagini non invasive. Bononia University Press 2020.

2) And a chosen volume between:

- J. Gather, C. Gaffney. Revealing the buried past. Geophysics for archaeologists. Stroud 2003.

- G. Leucci. Geofisica applicata all’archeologia e ai beni monumentali. Dario Flaccovio Editore 2015.


The following texts are also suggested for optional further study:

- A. Clark. Seeing beneath the soil. Prospecting methods in archaeology. Routledge 1996.

- S. Campana, S. Piro (eds.). Seeing the Unseen. Geophysics and landscape archaeology. CRC Press 2009.

- S. Campana, M. Forte (eds.). Remote Sensing in Archaeology. XI Ciclo di Lezioni sulla Ricerca applicata in Archeologia (Certosa di Pontignano 1999). All'Insegna del Giglio 2001.

- C. Corsi, B. Slapsak, F. Vermeulen (eds.). Good Practice in Archaeological Diagnostics. Non-destructive approaches to complex archaeological sites. Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013.

- L.B. Conyers, D. Goodman. Ground Penetrating Radar. Un'introduzione per gli archeologi. Aracne editore 2012.

- M. Dabas, H. Delétang, A. Ferdière, C. Jung, W. Haio Zimmermann. La prospection. Paris 2006.

For an in-depth examination of general topics:

- F. Boschi (ed.). Looking to the Future, Caring for the Past. Preventive Archaeology in theory and practice. Bologna University Press 2016.

- F. Boschi. Tracce di una città sepolta. Aerofotografia e geofisica per l'archeologia di Classe e del suo territorio. Ante Quem 2012.

- P. Gull. Archeologia Preventiva. Il codice appalti e la gestione del rischio archeologico. Dario Flaccovio Editore 2015.


Teaching methods

The teaching is articulated in theoretical lectures in classroom and practical demonstration activities in laboratory and on the field. Students, if interested, can integrate lessons with further practical activities, taking part in the laboratories offered by the Department, in particular the Laboratory of Geophysics and Aerial Photography.

Assessment methods

The final test consists of an oral examination, during which the various topics covered in class will be addressed. Specifically, the exam will include three general questions on the sections into which the course is divided, up to more detailed insights related to specific aspects of the subject.

The overall assessment, and final grade, will take into account:

- In-depth knowledge of content, ability to synthesize and critically analyze themes and concepts;

- Ability to critically navigate the use of geophysical and non-invasive survey techniques in relation to the needs and specificities of archaeological research;

- Use of appropriate language and expository mastery;

- Active participation in lectures, practical sessions and discussion times.

Knowledge gaps and/or inappropriate language will be evaluated negatively.

Teaching tools

During the lessons visual aids will be widely used, especially slides and projections from computer. Explanatory paper materials, concerning specific subjects of the course, will be provided to the students and available through Virtuale.

Office hours

See the website of Federica Boschi