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Acoustic Ground Discrimination Techniques for Submerged Archaeological Site Investigations

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Single beam acoustic ground discrimination systems (AGDS) based on standard echo sounders are routinely used for commercial and research applications. Analysis of the return echo signals using these systems produces indexes of seabed "roughness" and "hardness" which have been used to classify seabed type and are here used to map submerged archaeological materials.

The aim of this paper is to assess the potential for this technology to characterize submerged archaeological sites. Benefits of characterizing sites in this way include the potential for assessing future impacts on the archaeological material based on the assessment of sediment type and stability from the acoustic data. The technology could offer a means by which sites can regularly be monitored for changes over time, allowing for mitigation strategies to be employed to prevent loss of cultural material.

AGDS systems have already been shown to differentiate wide-ranging bottom types over large areas of seabed. Examples are given from two archaeological sites where trials of one particular AGDS indicate that it is possible for small areas of seabed containing exposed archaeological material to be readily distinguished from the surrounding seabed in terms of the character of the acoustic responses.

Further research is necessary to determine if, on a site-to-site basis, relationships can be established between acoustic signature, generic archaeological material, sediment type and the degree of preservation of archaeological material.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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