Skip navigation.
Enlightening Research

this site has not been updated since 2017... visit us @  to learn about new products and services!

Detecting Palaeolithic Activity Areas Through Electrical Resistivity Survey: An Assessment from Vale de Óbidos, Portugal

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 29, Issue 6, p.563 - 570 (2002)





archaeology, ER, PALAEOLITHIC, PORTUGAL, survey


Since the late 1950s, electrical resistivity remote sensing has been employed at archaeological sites containing relatively large architectural features such as masonry walls, paved foundations, or ditch construction (Weymouth, 1986). These archaeological situations are ideal for geophysical prospection methods since the targeted features are predictably regular in form, large in size, and usually contrast sharply with the background signal of the surrounding soil matrix (Carr, 1982). As a result, historic, protohistoric, and late prehistoric contexts account for most of the successful electrical resistivity surveys in archaeology. Electrical resistivity rarely is incorporated into research designs at early prehistoric sites, such as the Palaeolithic/Mesolithic periods in the Old World and Palaeoindian/Archaic periods in the Americas, as major architectural remains are scarce in the archaeological record of hunter–gatherers.

The open air Late Pleistocene campsite of Vale de Ou bidos provided an opportunity to systematically assess the utilityof electrical resistivity surveying for activity area detection at Palaeolithic sites. Detailed surface mapping facilitated the
exploration of electrical resistivity e.ects caused by recent land use activities and post depositional processes. At Vale
de Ou bidos, tree throw events, ploughing, and earth moving have a more significant impact on soil resistivity than
increases in soil moisture associated with pine tree stumps and roots. Resistivity results successfully discriminate activity
areas containing hearth features and high densities of fire cracked rocks and artifacts. As an aid for understanding
post-depositional processes at archaeological sites and to design excavation and recovery e.orts, the technique has great
potential for Palaeolithic archaeology and in other prehistoric contexts that lack major architectural remains.
⬚ 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.