Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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Acoustic Imaging with Kiel’s oceanographers


Although having just become a member of the graduate school ‘Human Development in Landscapes’, one of the first things I participated in was an introductory seminar to Acoustic Imaging at the other Kiel-based graduate school Future Ocean – the oceanographers.  On dingy days in February the participants embarked on RV LITTORINA to test various surveying methods, encompassing a boomer and side-scan sonar as well as the analysis of soil samples from the seabed. In previous theoretical sessions we learned how to interpret the sonar image, its limitations and pitfalls, from turpidity currents to backscatters and multiple reflections.

While most of the other participants were members of the Future Ocean graduate school, this course was highly relevant for maritime archaeology too. Side-scan sonars are used to generate bathymetric maps, which show the hydrography of a site and (if the resolution is good) shipwrecks and other archaeological remains, whereas the sub-bottom profiler provides information on possible remains beneath the sediment, which are the highest potential due to their preservation under anaerobic conditions.


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