Geophysical measurements for archaeological investigation: case studies in Malaysia

Author : Abdul Rahim Samsudin & Umar Hamzah
Publication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia
Page : 481-489
Volume Number : 43
Year : 1999

Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 43, Dec. 1999, pp. 481 – 489

Geophysical measurements for archaeological investigation: case studies in Malaysia


Department of Geology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, 43600, Selangor D.E., Malaysia


Abstract: Three archaeological sites containing different artifacts were investigated by geophysical methods. The first site is located at Sungai Mas village in Kuala Muda District of Kedah, north west of Malaysia. Since the beginning of the 1980 this site has produced a number of important and interesting archaeological finds relevant to the history of the Bujang Valley of Kedah. The archaeological teams from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the Museum Department of Malaysia revealed that there were several remains of low mounds of laterite block and brick foundation for structures in the village. A geoelectrical profiling method using dipole-dipole array was used to study the artifacts and the preliminary survey was designed to see whether the technique would be useful for identifying and locating anomalies of archaeological significance in the area. Result of the study indicates that the geoelectrical resistivity method can be successfully used in detecting archaeological anomalies of shallow buried artifacts in the studied area.

The second site is situated in a fisherman‘s village on the northern bank of Kedah River mouth and it lies in a coastal lowland area of Kuala Kedah District. The site is located approximately 7 kilometres from Alor Star, northern Kedah. It covers an area of about 3.5 hectares along the river side. Remains of partly buried nineteenth century fort which belong to the former sultan of Kedah was excavated by the Museum Department of Malaysia for future conservation plan. The area was gazette as a museum reserve and planned to be developed as another historical tourist spot in Kedah. Geophysical measurements employing geoelectric profiling (Wenner array) and magnetic surveys were conducted to locate structures of partly buried foundation of the fort as a guide for future conservation work. Both the geoelectrical and magnetic surveys have produced results showing several anomalous areas which appear to coincide well with the locations of the uncovered artifacts.

The third archaeological site is located in the area of Pasir Salak historical complex in Kampong Gajah District, southern Perak. The site which covers an area of 80 x 60 square metres lies about 200 metres from the Perak River. It was identified to be a site of a former fort built by a Malay warrior to fight the British in the late nineteenth century. The site was developed into a football field for the school nearby before the land was gazetted as a museum reserve. The department of museum has conducted four phases of excavation in December 1990, April 1991, June 1993 and July 1996 but no significant major artifact was found. Detailed geophysical study (geoelectric and magnetic) was carried out to look for artifact. The geoelectrical profiling survey employing dipole-dipole array revealed eight different locations of high resistivity zones whereas the magnetic measurement indicated two anomalous areas. These anomalous areas could probably be associated with the artifact of archaeological significance and they need to be confirmed by excavation.