Methodologies

by | Apr 3, 2023

In pursuing its numerous goals the Falerii Novi Project (FNP) research team aims to apply a range of techniques from across archaeological disciplines to its work. The site is a rare example of an exceptionally accessible greenfield ancient urban center with readily available large-scale non-invasive survey data, and it is the hope of the FNP that the site will become an example of a successful combination of a range of techniques from across archaeological disciplines.

The most notable of these are geophysical survey, excavation, and specialist analysis.

Geophysical Survey

Previous geophysical surveys using magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) carried out across the site have revealed in great detail the form of many of the city’s buildings and the urban layout as a whole. Colleagues from the University of Ghent who conducted the previous GPR survey with the University of Cambridge are continuing their work both refining earlier results within the walls and moving outside the walls to help clarify the physical nature of Falerii Novi’s immediate surroundings. Back inside the walls, the FNP plans to perform an electrical resistivity survey and geochemical analysis, which will complement radiocarbon dating. The team has already begun this geochemical work with samples taken from each context of a 2021 trench. In July 2023 the project also began a large non-invasive survey of the hinterland of the city, the research forming the doctoral thesis of one of the project team.

Man standing next to a four-wheeled vehicle connected to towing a ground-penetrating radar array

Lieven Verdonck with a quad towing a GPR array

Excavation

Excavation is needed to explore, check, and validate the results of the remote sensing surveys. The FNP uses stratigraphic, open excavation with trenches that can range anywhere from 5×5 meters to 20×20 meters, and these are frequently expanded during the season. Team members use single context recording in a digital database so specialists and those in the field can share information. Graphic documentation is typically hand-drawn, either in situ or from georeferenced high-resolution drone orthophotographs. Photographs are taken of every context and drone photographs are taken every week, or more frequently if needed.

multiple people digging in large field trench

Dig team hard at work

Specialist Analysis

A strength of the FNP is its commitment to having specialists analyze the different types of material from excavation. The team employ specialists in the following areas:

  • ceramics
  • paleobotany (study of fossil plants)
  • palynology (study of pollen grains and spores)
  • faunal remains
  • geo-chemistry
  • charcoal
  • glass
  • metal
  • coins

Each of the specialists will visit the project at some point during the season in order to assess the finds or samples, and they typically return to Rome after the end of the season to look at the material again and generate their final reports.

Four specialists in a store room cataloging materials from Falerii Novi

Specialists analyzing and recording materials from Falerii Novi