The main aim of the Seabed Prehistory project is to better understand the extent and character of prehistoric seabed deposits. Submerged prehistoric deposits can be affected by the industrial extraction of sand and gravel aggregates from the seabed. While the procedures for applying for aggregate extraction licences seek to minimise the impact of industry on archaeologically sensitive deposits, gaps exist in the methods of gathering data for Environmental Impact Statements. The project looks to maximise the archaeological information gained from existing survey methods. This will hopefully lead to more effective ways of gleaning archaeological information from the seabed and a deeper understanding of its archaeological potential.
Data was gathered using methods currently in used in archaeology and marine industries, or using variations on these methods. The approach to the acquisition and interpretation of this data is outlined below.
After identification of suitable study areas, geophysical surveys were carried out to map the seafloor and identify different horizons in the sediments beneath the seabed. The data obtained from these surveys was processed and reproduced as a 3D digital model. Geophysical survey results were used to identify areas on the seabed with archaeological potential. These areas were subjected to geotechnical surveys which involved the retrieval of seabed sediment samples. The samples were processed and geoarchaeological and environmental analyses were conducted. Analyses of these sediments provided information on the likely environment and ecology of the area in prehistory. From this information archaeologists have been able to reconstruct the now submerged landscapes.
One study area, the palaeo-Arun, was subjected to intensive survey which enabled archaeologist to produce a comprehensive reconstruction of the prehistoric environment.
A 3D computer animated visualisation was produced based on the palaeo-Arun reconstruction.