Tri-Dimensional Electric Resistivity Tomography (ERT-3D) Technique, an Efficient Tool to Unveil the Subsoil of Archaeological Structures

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Rene E Chavez, Diana Vargas, Gerardo Cifuentes-Nava, J. Esteban HernaNdez-Quintero and Andres Tejero, UNAM National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
Three-Dimensional Electrical Resistivity Tomography techniques (ERT-3D) have demonstrated to be an efficient tool to study the subsurface of areas of archaeological interest by special arrays designed to ‘illuminate’ the subsoil beneath the structure under study. ‘L’- and ‘Corner’-arrays are applied to design alternative electrode geometries, which attempt to cover the subsurface with enough resistivity observations underneath the studied target. Two examples are presented where novel geometries can be applied to investigate the subsoil of two important pyramids in Mexico. First, the archaeological site of Cuicuilco is studied. The area is found towards the southern portion of the Mexican Basin. This pyramid presents a circular structure of 110 m in diameter and a total height of 25 m. The region is partially covered by the lava flows that came from an eruptive event form the Xitle Volcano 1500 years ago. The geophysical study was carried out at the base of the pyramid. 48 electrodes were deployed along a circular transect, with an electrode separation of 5.4 m. A total of 1716 apparent resistivity observations were measured. The inverted model computed is obtained with an investigation depth of 30 m, approximately (Figure 1, in color). A resistive anomaly can be observed towards the central portion of the model. This anomaly can be associated to a burial chamber, excavated by the archaeologists. The second example corresponds to the pyiramid El Castillo, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, in the southern lowlands of Mexico, within the Yucatan Peninsula. Previous GPR studies carried out within the pyramid’s Plaza provided evidences of a buried tunnel excavated within the limestone rocks. Such feature seemed to run beneath the eastern flank of the pyramide. The geophysical study was carried out by employing 96 flat-surface electrodes, which surrounded the edifice forming a square geometry. A total of 5,350 apparent resistivity observations were measured (Figure 2), with a total depth of investigation of 25 m. The initial models computed have shown encouraging results, unfortunately noisy data did not allow obtaining a better result. A filtering processing is been designed to reject noisy information and to enhance the possible position of a buried cavity beneath the pyramid.