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High-resolution Geophysical Investigations at the Muweilah Archaeological Site, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Example Research Project supported by the ASEG Research Foundation

High-resolution Geophysical Investigations at the Muweilah Archaeological Site, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Host Institution: University of Sydney


Iain Mason and Peter Magee (Bryn Mawr College, USA)

Industry Mentor: Eric Wedepohl,

Subsurface Imaging Contact:

Project Summary

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) was used to characterise an Iron Age II (1100-600 BC) archaeological site in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The settlement at Muweilah is the only Iron Age Arabian site so far discovered; it consists of complex interlocking mud-brick (pisé), and stone and mud-brick walls (one of which encloses the whole settlement). Structures with several rooms, for domestic and political purposes have also been recognised.

GPR was used, along with magnetics, electromagnetics and radiometrics, to facilitate the imaging of this complex site by surveying three unknown areas with varying thicknesses of sand overburden. One area was completely ground-truthed after the surveys, the second area was surveyed to benchmark previous magnetic gradiometry surveys, and the third area was chosen as this was where previous gradiometry could not penetrate the sand overburden.

Archaeological features were identified to a depth of several metres including planar features such as floors, linear features such as walls, and isolated hyperbolae representing archaeological activity, corner reflectors or other point scatterers. Surveying conditions were favourable with sand cover allowing good radar penetration and strong reflections from targets. The feature of this project is the use of 3D GPR migration slices at 10 cm vertical spacings, in a manner, which mirrors the excavation methodology employed by archaeologists.

Although much of the interpretations are still subject to ground-truthing, limited excavations have been extremely encouraging. GPR is capable of imaging the complex elements at Muweilah and its use will aid the ongoing excavations by indicating areas of inferred cultural or geological activity, thus avoiding costly and unnecessary excavations and also helping with the conservation of the site.

The project was supported by Roger Henderson, formerly of Geo Instruments.

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