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RAPID: Testing Geophysical Prospection and Mapping Methods for Early Christian Cemeteries in Iceland


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Society, economy and culture
Project topic
Culture & history

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Geolocation is 65.566666, -19.483334

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This is a RAPID project to conduct geophysical survey of the Viking Age Christian cemetery at Stora-Seyla, Iceland, prior to excavation this summer by the Skagafjordur Heritage Museum. the research team states that currently there is no geophysical methodology to find buried churches and cemeteries that can be applied on a regional scale in Iceland. Apparently the most useful geophysical method to detect Viking Age Christian cemeteries in Iceland is ground penetrating radar (GPR). However, the problem is that for GPR to be effective, it is necessary to strip off the grass in advance of survey; such activity is expensive, potentially destructive to archaeological contexts, and most importantly requires that the location of buried church complexes be known before survey. The research team states that electromagnetic (EM) surveying with new multi-sensor instrumentation could provide an alternative that could be applied on a regional scale and would not require the removal of turf prior to survey. While the EM methods have been used successfully to find buried turf walls, the proposed application is untested in Iceland but its results could yield a methodology for finding buried cemeteries and characterizing individual burials. Planned excavation will provide a unique opportunity to ground-truth this innovative EM application. Therefore, the research team is receiving RAPID funds to conduct exploratory EM surveys of this churchyard before the Heritage Museum's excavation, which is being supported by the Icelandic Archaeological Fund.