Armin Schmidt

Armin Schmidt

Armin Schmidt is an archaeological geophysicist and IT pioneer, initially trained as a physicist with a PhD from the RWTH Aachen, Germany. He has applied novel methods of geophysical prospection worldwide from Ecuador to Iran, Nepal and Japan, working as a researcher and UNESCO consultant. He is Founder and Chairman of the International Society for Archaeological Prospection (ISAP), as well as co-founder of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and of the Bradford Centre for Archaeological Prospection (B-CAP).

His specialisations are in near-surface geophysics for archaeological prospection and geoarchaeology; geodata processing; and computer applications in archaeology. His main archaeological interests are Iranian prehistory and South Asian archaeology.

He has written books on geophysical data in archaeology, and on magnetometer and earth resistance surveys for archaeologists.

After obtaining a physics PhD from the RWTH Aachen, Germany, he worked in the Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford (UK) from 1993 to 2010 as a Senior Lecturer, leading the archaeological geophysics research group after Arnold Aspinall's retirement. In 2010 he founded the company GeodataWIZ (incorpotrated as GeodataWIZ Ltd in 2013), which specialises in advanced processing and visualisation of geodata and geoinformatics. He holds honorary appointments with the archaeology departments of the University of Bradford and Durham University.

Professional Activities

Research

Research focuses on four main areas:

  1. Integrated archaeological field projects (from intra-site to landscapes) using archaeological geophysical techniques.
  2. Development of new, and adaptation of existing, geophysical techniques (instrumental and computational) for use in archaeological prospection.
  3. Integration of geophysical and remote sensing techniques for the study of archaeological sites and landscapes, using GIS.
  4. The use of IT for the enhancement of the archaeological record.

1. Integrated Field Projects

As project- and team-leader Armin Schmidt is involved in several international archaeological research projects. In Turkey, the Classical site of Pessinus (home of the Mother Goddess Cybele) is investigated through geophysical surveys, remote sensing, fieldwalking and traditional excavations, a project directed by Gocha Tsetskhladze (University of Melbourne). In Iran the palaeoenvironment of the Chalcolithic tell of Ghabristan was investigated with geoarchaeological methods to provide further information on the settlement hiatus in the Early Bronze Age (with Hassan Fazeli and Ghasem Azizi, University of Tehran). This project is now part of a larger research network investigating the palaeoclimate of Iran: The Iranian Holocene

In a project with Robin Coningham (Durham University) the potential for archaeological geophysical techniques were investigated in South Asia. As part of UNESCO missions to Bangladesh and Nepal detailed geophysical surveys revealed unknown buried structures (e.g. viharas at Ramagrama, Nepal). The geophysical results from the 2011 fieldseason at Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal, showed the archaeological potential of the site. In an AHRC funded project, the hinterland of Sri Lanka's ancient capital Anuradhapura was investigated using various archaeological methods, including detailed geophysical investigations.

In the UK, the Battle of Towton Landscape Project (Tim Sutherland) has demonstrated the necessity for an integration of multi-source data from various field techniques, including metal detectors. The results have shown how archaeological research can inform the evaluation of historical sources. In other UK projects work is undertaken in collaboration with various local groups (e.g. Huddersfield & District Archaeological Society) to assist with the understanding of archaeological landscapes and remains. Detailed geophysical investigations of ancient metalworking sites have provided considerable insight into the layout of such sites and the morphology of buried furnaces (with Rob Vernon and Gerry McDonnell). Geophysical surveys at several National Trust properties helped to reveal the layout of earlier planting and landscaping schemes.

2. Geophysical Methodology

A thorough evaluation of magnetic susceptibility measurements on a modern iron production site, which had in recent history been polluted with heavy metals, demonstrated how rapid magnetic measurements can be used to map the spatial distribution of contaminants by proxy.

3. Data Integration

The integration of several remote sensing data sources (e.g. satellite imagery, aerial photography and geophysical surveys) with other archaeological data (e.g. surface collection and earthwork surveys) using GIS technology has greatly enhanced subsequent archaeological interpretations. For example at Charsadda, Pakistan, such integration was crucial to reveal the relationship between modern surface features, geophysical anomalies and historic excavation records.

4. IT in Archaeology

GIS tools are being adapted to enhance the digital workflow from field to publications, for example by providing improved tools for the digitisation of earthwork mapping.

An ecological model based on archaeological observations in Iceland (Bumodel) was re-evaluated to be used as a learning game for the teaching of sustainability through an archaeological case study.

Research Projects with links

Selection of Recent Publications with links

Books

  • Schmidt, A. 2013. Earth Resistance for Archaeologists. Lanham: AltaMira Press.
    Publisher's web page. The book is available from Amazon with a few pages of preview.
  • Schmidt, A. 2013. ADS Guide to Good Practice: Geophysical Data in Archaeology - 2nd fully revised edition. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
    The book is available from Oxbow and from Amazon. The Wiki version is Open Access.
  • Camidge, K., P. Holt, C. Johns, L. Randall & A. Schmidt 2010. Developing magnetometer techniques to identify submerged archaeological sites (5671 DT). Historic Environment Service, Environment and Heritage, Cornwall County Council Report No: 2010R012.
    ADS Version (Open Access)
  • Aspinall, A., C. Gaffney & A. Schmidt 2008. Magnetometry for Archaeologists. Lanham: AltaMira Press.
    Publisher's web page with the page of aknowledgements that is missing from the hardback edition. The book is available from Amazon.

Journal Articles

  • Schmidt, A. & G. Tsetskhladze 2013. Raster was Yesterday: Using Vector Engines to Process Geophysical Data. Archaeological Prospection 20(1): 59-65.
    DOI: 10.1002/arp.1443 (subscription required), Preprint.
  • Quigley, M., M. Fattahi, R. Sohbati & A. Schmidt 2011. Palaeoseismicity and pottery: investigating earthquake and archaeological chronologies on the Hajiarab alluvial fan, Iran. Quaternary International 242(1): 185-195.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2011.04.023 (subscription required). See also Mark Quigley's publications list.
  • Schmidt, A., M. Quigley, M. Fattahi, G. Azizi, M. Maghsoudi & H. Fazeli 2011. Holocene settlement shifts and palaeoenvironments on the Central Iranian Plateau: investigating linked systems. The Holocene 21(4): 583-595.
    DOI: 10.1177/0959683610385961 (subscription required), Preprint. See also Mark Quigley's publications list.
  • Coningham, R., P. Gunawardhana, M. Manuel, G. Adikari, M. Katugampola, R. Young, A. Schmidt, K. Krishnan, I. Simpson, G. McDonnell & C. Batt 2007. The state of theocracy: defining an early medieval hinterland in Sri Lanka. Antiquity 81(313): 699-719.
    Online Article (subscription required)
  • Schmidt, A. and H. Fazeli 2007. Tepe Ghabristan: A Chalcolithic Tell Buried in Alluvium. Archaeological Prospection 14(1): 38 - 46.
    DOI: 10.1002/arp.291 (subscription required), Preprint
  • Schmidt, A., R. Yarnold, M. Hill and M. Ashmore 2005. Magnetic Susceptibility as Proxy for Heavy Metal Pollution: A Site Study. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 85(3): 109-117.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.gexplo.2004.12.001 (subscription required), Preprint
  • Sutherland, T. and A. Schmidt 2003. Towton, 1461: An Integrated Approach to Battlefield Archaeology. Landscapes 4(2): 15-25.
    Preprint
  • Schmidt, A. 2003. Remote Sensing and Geophysical Prospection. Internet Archaeology 15.
    Online Article (Open Access), Preprint
  • Vernon, R.W., G. McDonnell and A. Schmidt 2002. The Geophysical Evaluation of British Lead and Copper Working Sites. Comparison with Iron Working. Archaeological Prospection 9(3): 123-134.
    DOI: 10.1002/arp.180 (subscription required)
  • Pringle, J.K., A.R. Westerman, A. Schmidt, J. Harrison, D. Shandley, J. Beck, R.E. Donahue and A. Gardiner 2002. Investigating Peak Cavern, Castleton, Derbyshire, UK: integrating cave survey, geophysics, geology and archaeology to create a 3D digital CAD model. Cave and Karst Science 29(2): 67-74.
  • Hamilton, K., G. McDonnell and A. Schmidt 1999. Assessment of early lead working sites in the Yorkshire Dales by geophysical prospection. Memoirs 63(Dec.): 156-162.

Works in Edited Collections

  • Schmidt, A. 2009. Electrical and Magnetic Methods in Archaeological Prospection. In S. Campana and S. Piro (eds) Seeing the Unseen. Geophysics and Landscape Archaeology: 67-81. London: Taylor & Francis Group.
    Preprint and extracts from Google Books
  • Schmidt, A. 2007. Archaeology, magnetic methods. In D. Gubbins and E. Herrero-Bervera (eds) Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism. Heidelberg, New York: Springer.
    Preprint and Google Books
  • Schmidt, A., T. Sutherland and S. Dockrill 2006. Inside the mound: geophysical surveys of the Scatness Iron-age Broch, Shetland. In R.E. Jones and L. Sharpe (eds) Going over old ground: 225-230. BAR British Series 416. Oxford: Archaeopress.
  • Schmidt, A. 2001. Visualisation of multi-source archaeological geophysics data. In M. Cucarzi and P. Conti (eds) Filtering, Optimisation and Modelling of Geophysical Data in Archaeological Prospecting: 149-160. Rome: Fondazione Ing. Carlo M. Lerici.
    Preprint
  • Mercer, E. and A. Schmidt 2001. A magnetometer survey of an Iron Age settlement site at Uppakra, Skane, Sweden. In L. Larsson (ed.) Uppakra: Centrum i analys och rapport, Uppakrastudier 4: 65-78. Lund: Acta Archaeologica Lundensia (Series 8 no 36).
  • Vernon, R. W., J.G. McDonnell and A. Schmidt 1999. Medieval Iron and Lead Smelting Works: A Geophysical Comparison. In Pollard A. M. (ed.) Geoarchaeology: exploration, environments, resources: 15-34. London: Geological Society, Special Publications, Vol. 165.
  • Schmidt, A. & A. Marshall 1997. Impact of resolution on the interpretation of archaeological prospection data. In A. Sinclair, E. Slater and J. Gowlett (eds) Archaeological Sciences 1995: 343-348. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
    Preprint