Archaeology Mapping Magnus

Mapping Magnus Community Geophysics in Birsay


Community archaeology in Palace Village, Birsay, Orkney on 12, 13 & 14 September 2017!

Join the Mapping Magnus team from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute to complete a geophysical survey of key sites in Palace Village, Birsay, Orkney. This project offers the opportunity to learn how to use magnetic survey and earth resistance techniques and understand how these processes are used in archaeology.

No experience is necessary, so come along and enjoy the experience of helping the team to discover buried features in and around Palace Village.

A quick guide to geophysics in a few words……….Geophysical survey in archaeology uses a wide range of non-intrusive techniques to reveal buried archaeological features, sites and landscapes. It is a rapid and cost-effective means of exploring large areas and is used widely in commercial and research archaeology. It is quite often one of the first techniques to be employed on a site, prior to ground-breaking, and the results can be used to determine the location of any trenches. Some techniques complement each other, such as magnetic survey and earth resistance survey, which will be used in this project.


Magnetic Survey

Magnetic survey measures localized variations in the earth’s magnetic field caused by features in the top metre or so of the ground. The technique is especially suited to locating ditches, pits, pottery and tile kilns, hearths and ovens, ferrous debris, and burnt material. Users need to be free of magnetic material, such as zips on clothing, when carrying out the survey.

Earth Resistance Survey

Earth resistance survey involves electrical currents being fed into the ground and the measurement of any resistance to the flow of these currents. Where the current meets buried walls, it will record high resistance readings. Where the current meets an infilled ditch, low resistance readings will result.

The method is particularly suited to locating walls and rubble spreads, made surfaces such as roads or yards and stone coffins or cists. The technique can also be used to locate ditches and pits in areas where magnetic survey is not suitable, for example due to the nature of the soils or the presence of large amounts of ferrous material on or beneath the surface.

Earth Resistance survey is a relatively slow process and, as such, will be used to target specific areas of interest identified in the magnetic survey.


This project is part of the Mapping Magnus project which aims to involve the community in hands-on archaeological research, fieldwork and experiences that explores the Magnus Story in exciting new ways. See the Mapping Magnus update page for more information on this important project.

Contact to book a place. Meet up at Palace Village car park opposite the Kirk at 10am.