SGS Field Camp 2014

(by Lennart)

Nizhny Novgorod, 4 – 8 August 2014

The preparations for the research project started about one year before. The president of our SEG student chapter told about the interest of some Russian fellow students to cooperate with us. Due to a lack of time he wasn’t available for this task and asked if there were other interested students. His descriptions about the mutual work were very interesting and I decided to go through with this project.

Since there wasn’t a specific idea about our cooperation yet, we first had to figure out an appropriate research target with our Russian colleagues. After thinking about it for a while, we had the idea to support archaeological excavations in Nizhny Novgorod by applying geophysical methods: The objective of the field camp was the Podvyaze burial site close to the city. It is a monument of the 4th century and the first grave of the complex was found and studied in 2010. Two years later, the first research excavation was carried out by local archaeologists. Nowadays, Podvyaze is listed in the state register of cultural heritage of the Russian Federation and is recognized as a monument of federal importance. In addition to 18 discovered graves with humans and animals, archaeologists have found 284 objects such as bracelets, rings, elements of weapons and other grave goods. The aim of our field camp was to reveal buried structures by using different geophysical applications and to support archeological work in the sense of pinpointing proper excavation sites. Since the Russian participants are Nizhny Novgorod citizens the contact to the local archaeologists has quickly been established.

We applied geomagnetics, geoelectrics (ERT), ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and near-surface seismic. Each participant was responsible for one application and had to take care of the proper implementation. Beside us three German participants, four Russian fellow students were working on the survey-site. Moreover, we had excellent assistance aside by operators, who provided the survey equipment and scientists of the joining faculties.

The survey-site was situated about 40 km south-west of Nizhny Novgorod and the daily transfer from the city centre was a notable part of each working day. To reach the measurement location we had to go off-road, with a common passenger car. There are several archaeological sites in this area and we agreed to survey a spot nearby a forest edge which measures 9 m x 15 m. Since we decide an array step of 25 cm for some applications, the measuring campaigns comprised partly 2257 measurement points distributed over 37 profiles. That's why we needed the whole time frame of 5 days to cover the site properly with four applications and a tight survey grid. Thus, first results of the measurements looked quite promising. Our fully report including results and interpretation can be enquired at the Student Geoscientific Society. Since future on-site excavations won't start before 2015, we have to be patient with the final certainty whether we found buried treasures or not.

A report about our field work which has been broadcasted on Russian TV can be found here.

Despite temporary massive efforts in terms of time and work (frustration included) I would like to recommend everybody who is interested to conduct such a research project. In every stage of the planning and organization I learned new things. Moreover, we made many new and amicable contacts in Russia which we want to intensify in future. Thus, it would be great if other interested people with geoscientific background were keen and willing to continue our cooperation with our international colleagues.

Thank you very much to our home association Student Geoscientific Society e.V., based at Freie Unversitaet Berlin and the colleagues from the Institute of Applied Physics in Nizhny Novgorod for financial support. Without their grants we wouldn’t have been able to implement the field camp. Beside that I thank my SGS colleagues Jan and Martin who went through with the project and also spent countless hours to make that adventure come true. Special thanks go to our Russian friends who have been a great host and who have taken care tirelessly for our well-being! большо́е спаси́бо!

Photos: SGS