Using Ground Penetrating Radar to Reveal Hidden Archaeology: The Case Study of the Württemberg-Stambol Gate in Belgrade (Serbia)

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Jan 22;20(3):607. doi: 10.3390/s20030607.


This paper presents the results of a research study where ground penetrating radar (GPR) was successfully used to reveal the remains of the Württemberg-Stambol Gate in the subsurface of Republic Square, in Belgrade, Serbia. GPR investigations were carried out in the context of renovation works in the square, which involved rearranging traffic control, expanding the pedestrian zone, renewing the surface layer, and valorising existing archaeological structures. The presence of the gate remains was suggested by historical documents and information from previous restoration works. A pulsed radar unit was used for the survey, with antennas having 200- and 400-MHz central frequencies. Data were recorded over a grid and two three-dimensional models were built, one for each set of antennas. The grid was the same for both sets of antennas, therefore the two models could be compared. Several horizontal cross sections of the models were plotted, corresponding to different depths; these images were carefully examined and interpreted, paying particular attention to signatures that could originate from the sought archaeological structures. Reflections coming from the gate remains were identified in both models, in the same region of the survey area and at the same depth; the geometry, size, and layout of the gate columns, as well as of other construction elements belonging to the gate, were determined with very good accuracy. Based on the GPR findings, archaeological excavation works were carried out in the region where the foundation remains were estimated to be. The presence of the remains was confirmed, with various columns and side walls. This case study demonstrates and further corroborates the effectiveness and reliability of GPR for the non-invasive prospection of archaeological structures hidden in the heterogeneous subsurface of urban environments. In the opinion of the authors, GPR should be incorporated as a routine field procedure in construction and renovation projects involving historical cities.

Keywords: ground penetrating radar (GPR); non-destructive testing (NDT); three-dimensional analysis; urban archaeology.