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Larvik / Vestfold

The aim of the project in Norway

Site visit – Larvik municipality, Vestfold county. Photo: Ole Risbøl, NIKU, 2010Pre-excavation evaluations carried out in connection with cultural heritage management and area planning in Norway currently relies heavily on large-scale trial trenching which is both time-consuming for the archaeologists, disrupting to land owners and which can even be damaging to the archaeology. We hope that by testing a variety of non-intrusive methods for monitoring and managing cultural heritage sites, these factors can be limited or even all together eliminated.

Although remote sensing has never been fully exploited in Norwegian archaeology, the few experiments that have been carried out over the last few years show that these methodologies have the potential for providing archaeologists with cost efficient tools for decision making both in the planning process, as well as in research. By covering larger areas the archaeologists will be better equipped to set the archaeology into a broader context than by using more traditional methods such as trial trenching and small scale excavations. Additionally, areas of high archaeological interest may be avoided in order to preserve archaeological sites for the future.

Testing under Norwegian conditions will give us a clear idea how these methods will cope with the various soil and climatic conditions as well as the types of archaeology present. An expressed aim of the project will be to test whether the methods work, and more importantly to explain the reasons behind this. Previously, remote sensing techniques have been applied in an ad hoc fashion, with varying results, and as a result these techniques have, in general, been dismissed by the archaeological community in Norway. In recent years however a number of successful experiments have been carried out in the vicinity of the areas chosen by the LBI team, and it is argued that by using appropriate methods, it will be possible to capture the variety of archaeological remains and the connections between the different sites.

The methods

A variety of methods will be tested in conjunction with this project and a great number of datasets covering the chosen areas already exist. Multi spectral and panchromatic satellite data will be analysed using various methods, in order to investigate whether the areas chosen have any visible crop marks. The project will also attempt to acquire datasets from SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellites as well as from hyper spectral aerial scanning in order to investigate whether these methods are suitable for detecting archaeological anomalies. In addition, the project aims to utilise the substantial source of aerial LiDAR data, aerial photos, GIS data and historical maps which exist of the areas for the same purposes.

One of the most important aspects of the project will be to assess the suitability of geophysical prospection methods in Norwegian conditions. Previous experiments in the same areas have generally been successful and it is hoped that further experimentation with these methods will prove successful. The previous experiments have largely been carried out on a small scale, and the aim of the project will attempt to cover larger areas using motorised magnetometer and multi-channel GPR surveys.

One of the many factors influencing the results from the geophysical surveys will be the soil conditions at the chosen test sites. For this purpose, a highly detailed soil map of the chosen area has been acquired and will be used in close conjunction with the surveys. However, it is argued that in order to fully understand why these methods have worked or not, an actual physical intervention will be necessary. This will, at a minimum, include trial trenches across some of the anomalies down to the underlying subsoil. Additionally, the various soil conditions within the test areas should be tested to see if there is a correlation between the soils and the geophysical results. Methods for fast soil analyses will therefore also be assessed during the course of the project.

The areas of interest – Larvik municipality, Vestfold County

Larvik municipality, Vestfold county - Areas of interest. Map: Christer Tonning, Vestfold county, 2010. Map source: Statens kartverk, Geovekst.VestfoldCounty is Norway’s smallest and lies to the South of the capital Oslo. The county is characterised by large areas of arable land with patches of forests, interspersed with areas of exposed bedrock. Vestfold is perhaps best known in archaeological terms for the spectacular ship burials from Oseberg and Gokstad, as well as the high status burial mounds at Borre and the trading place at Kaupang. However, the area also lays claim to one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in Norway, spanning from the Neolithic to modern times. Although many of these sites have been recorded and excavated, the amount of crop-marks seen in both aerial photos and satellite imagery suggests that a large portion of previously unrecorded archaeological sites still exist in areas of cultivated land.

Vestfold’s central position in the eastern part of Norway and its proximity to the capital means that there is a substantial pressure from infrastructural development, such as road-schemes, railway expansion and other forms of industrial development. Furthermore, the areas along the coastal zones are popular holiday destinations and these areas face considerable pressure from the development of leisure areas and holiday homes. Developing new, fast methods for mapping the archaeology of an area well ahead of the planning process is therefore vital. This will give archaeologists, researchers and developers a powerful tool for assessing the archaeology and its context, as well as developing plans for either investigating the archaeology or preserving it in situ.

Within Larvik municipality, three main areas have been selected for testing. These are cultivated areas near the farms Aske, Tjølling and Berg. The areas have been chosen based on their archaeological and historical background, and cover various types of archaeology such as burial mounds, settlement traces and a medieval church site.

Preliminary results and progression 

The Norwegian part of the project is at present (summer 2010) well under way. Previously this year, representatives from the Vienna visited Vestfold for a seminar where the various areas were discussed and visited. In addition, the Norwegian team has started the collection and organising of the various data sets to be used in connection with the project. An aerial LiDAR survey has already been carried out over the area and the team is expecting the results later this summer. A large collection of satellite data is also already available, as are numerous historical maps and aerial photographs of the different areas. These sources will be incorporated into a GIS created especially for the project so that the data will become readily accessible to the team.

In order to raise the status of the project on a local level, a geophysical survey has already been carried out with the help of team members from Vienna. The survey was carried out outside the manor house in Larvik and the preliminary results are promising. The main part of the project, however, will be initiated in late August and continue until the end of September.

Case Study 2011 - Impressions

Lars having fun driving the LBI-ArchPro magnetic system to its limits.

Lisa with the Gokstad hill burial in the background.

Roland and Lars viewing the data.

Roland concentrated o driving the quad with the GPR system.

© all pictures LBI-ArchPro