Magnetism for Archaeology: example of the study of the site of Eridu in Lower Mesopotamia (Iraq).

Enerex offers innovative methods for measuring and interpreting magnetic data that are particularly suited to exploration and study in archaeology. Indeed, the use of a co-designed measurement system makes it possible to cover large areas more quickly and/or with greater resolution than traditional surveys using gradiometers or scalar magnetometers. Moreover, our software solutions at the cutting edge of academic research and developed in-house allow us to extract advanced information from data on the sources of magnetic anomalies.

Eridu site case study in Iraq

Eridu is an ancient city in Lower Mesopotamia, located in present-day Iraq, near the town of Nasiriyah. The site is made up of seven tells (small artificial hills) scattered over a vast area of more than 1000 ha, the remains of which are generally not visible on the surface. Ground magnetic surveys were carried out to inspect the area. The objective of the project is to better understand the organization and limits of Tell 4 within a clay-silty surrounding area. To do this, the project was carried out in collaboration with archaeologists from UMR 7044 Archimède and geographers from UMR 7362 LIVE.

The acquisition was carried out using a unique fluxgate multi-sensor system mounted on a backpack allowing the acquisition by our operators of 6 simultaneous profiles spaced 50 cm apart. This system allows rapid acquisition (2 to 4 ha/day) of high-resolution data at a distance from the ground between 10 cm and 1 m.

After data acquisition and processing, a high-resolution map of the magnetic anomaly at the site is obtained.

Thanks to Enerex’s expertise in data processing, several maps have been produced to map the different types of objects that create magnetic anomalies: metallic elements, traces of human activities, and local geology.

Mapping of metallic elements, ceramics, ovens, and hearths. We note a very high concentration of these elements in the west of the map (possibly an area of occupation).

Near-surface elements with narrow boundaries (remains of walls or other anthropological remains) after removing the effect of local geology. This map makes it possible to distinguish 3 archaeological zones, including zone 3 which mainly presents traces of local sedimentary deposits.

Zone 1: Remains of walls and buildings with angular shapes, surrounded by an ellipsoidal-shaped structure.

Zone 2: Traces of an ancient irrigation system with channels and wells.

After a thorough interpretation of all the zones and anomalies, we finally obtained a general interpretation map of the site on which all the observations are reported.

Magnetic surveys at the Eridu site have made it possible to highlight numerous previously unknown structures and a global interpretation of the area has been provided. revealing a previously unknown archaeological settlement and probable irrigation elements in its close environment. The presence of the ellipsoidal structure (embankment between raised interior and exterior) and the remains of buildings detected in zone 1 have been confirmed by archaeological excavations since this study.

We would like to thank the project partners for allowing us to present this case study: the Laboratory of Archeology and Ancient History: Mediterranean – Europe (ARCHIMEDE – University of Strasbourg, University of Haute Alsace, CNRS); the Image City, Environment laboratory (LIVE – University of Strasbourg, CNRS); as well as the Inter-university House of Human Sciences – Alsace (MISHA).

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