Magnetic Susceptibility

Magnetic susceptibility survey is a technique not often used by archaeologists in the United States. There are several kinds of instruments that can detect magnetic susceptibility in the ground. We use a Bartington MS2 system. In the field we use Bartington’s MS2D field loop for taking surface measurements and in the lab we can measure the magnetic susceptibility of soil samples with the MS2B lab sensor.

Mag Sus field work

MS2D Mag Sus meter and a global positioning system for logging the readings.

Magnetic susceptibility surveys are an excellent way to map the distribution of archaeological midden in the plowzone, or when buried if you have a downhole sensor. We commonly use the MS2D to survey large areas (many acres) when attempting to locate archaeology sites. This can be a good way to help determine where to focus smaller area magnetic gradient surveys. It can also reveal site structure, such as the location of a plaza within a Fort Ancient culture ring-shaped village. Formal refuse dumps on other kinds of settlements, camp sites or more permanently occupied settlements, can also be found using this technique and it is not uncommon to find higher-density clusters of artifacts at the locations of higher magnetic susceptibility readings.