CLA260H1S – LECTURE 22
Getting the measure of the land 2
In modern classical archaeology ‘survey’ usually refers not to ‘land’
surveying (which is what the material above is concerned with) but to
‘systematic regional survey’.
This is a technique of archaeological investigation which was closely
connected to the emergence of the ‘New Archaeology’, and which proved
to be relatively popular with classical archaeologists.
• This kind of survey is:
o focussed on regions, rather than on individual sites
o based on surface reconnaissance, rather than excavation.
• It can include (and combine) large scale topographic survey;
geophysical survey; and the use of aerial photography and other
forms of remotes sensing: however, the most basic and typical
method of archaeological surface survey involves archaeologists just
walking over designated areas of land (hence ‘fieldwalking survey’)
and looking for all visible traces of past human activity. The areas
are usually covered by teams, who are spaced out in lines, between
10 and 25 meters apart. The artefacts they see are counted (and
often some pieces are collected).
o For fairly obvious reasons this is more likely to be successful
in some terrains than others – ploughed fields are ideal.
• The results of this kind of reconnaissance contribute both to the
identification of previously unknown sites (especially those not
known from literary sources), and to the understanding of the
landscape between towns and cities.
• This kind of investigation was developed first by archaeologists
working in Mesoamerica and the southwestern US, (and in
Mesopotamia) – the fields where the proponents of the New
Archaeology were working – which is not coincidental, as surface
survey meshed well with the aims of the New Archaeology’s
o In the 1970s to the 1990s intensive campaigns of surface
survey were carried out around the Mediterranean, not least
in Greece and Italy. o Its appeal to classical archaeologists was due to a number of
It could be seen as a natural extension of a pre-existing