An electric and electromagnetic geophysical approach for subsurface investigation of anthropogenic mounds in an urban environment

Pazzi, Veronica; Tapete, Deodato; Cappuccini, Luca; Fanti, Riccardo. 2016 An electric and electromagnetic geophysical approach for subsurface investigation of anthropogenic mounds in an urban environment. Geomorphology, 273. 335-347.

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Scientific interest in mounds as geomorphological features that currently represent topographic anomalies in flat urban landscapes mainly lies on the understanding of their origin, either purely natural or anthropogenic. In this second circumstance, another question is whether traces of lost buildings are preserved within the mound subsurface and can be mapped as remnants testifying past settlement. When these landforms have been modified in centuries for civilian use, structural stability is a further element of concern. To address these issues we applied a geophysical approach based on a very low frequency electromagnetic (VLF-EM) technique and two dimensional electrical resistivity tomography (2D-ERT) and integrated it with well-established surface survey methods within a diagnostic workflow of structural assessment. We demonstrate the practical benefits of this method in the English Cemetery of Florence, Italy, whose mixed nature and history of morphological changes are suggested by archival records. The combination of the two selected geophysical techniques allowed us to overcome the physical obstacles caused by tomb density and to prevent interference from the urban vehicular traffic on the geophysical signals. Eighty-two VLF-EM profiles and five 2D-ERTs were collected to maximise the spatial coverage of the subsurface prospection, while surface indicators of instability (e.g., tomb tilt, location, and direction of ground fractures and wall cracks) were mapped by standard metric survey. High resistive anomalies (> 300 and 400 Ωm) observed in VLF-EM tomographies are attributed to remnants of the ancient perimeter wall that are still buried along the southern side of the mound. While no apparent correlation is found between the causes of tomb and ground movements, the crack pattern map supplements the overall structural assessment. The main outcome is that the northern portion of the retaining wall is classed with the highest hazard rate. The impact of this cost-effective approach is to inform the design of maintenance and restoration measures based on improved geognostic knowledge. The geophysical and surface evidence informs decisions on where interventions are to be prioritised and whether costly invasive investigations are needed.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0169555X
Date made live: 11 Aug 2016 11:01 +0 (UTC)

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