The Standardized Pricking Probe Surveying and Its Use in Archaeology

  • S. SzalaiEmail author
  • I. Lemperger
  • Á. M. Pattantyús
  • L. Szarka
Part of the Natural Science in Archaeology book series (ARCHAEOLOGY)


In this paper we present the so-called standardized pricking probe surveying technique and demonstrate its usefulness in an archaeological study. The buried target is a Paleochristian sepulchral chapel, which had already been excavated 82 years ago, then re-buried and forgotten.

By applying this technique, it was possible to locate the buried remnants of the chapel in a large field, in spite of the dense undergrowth, where classical geophysical methods could have hardly been applied. When the area was mopped-up, a detailed and systematic pricking probe surveying was carried out. The pricking-probe results have been compared to geoelectric, magnetic and georadar mapping results. The standardized pricking probe images, at least in this field experiment, proved to be competitive to the geophysical maps.

The optimum pricking probe parameters such as horizontal interval, pricking depth, observable quantity and the way of presentation were optimized through field experiments. For a detailed investigation a rectangular grid with an interval of 50 cm (i.e. a grid interval, corresponding to the wall thickness) is recommended, while for reconnaissance measurements a two times larger horizontal interval (1 m in this case) proved to be sufficient. In this case study the optimum pricking depth was 20–30 cm; in general it depends on the burial depth of the investigated object. For the presentation of the results a suitable running average of a two-valued observable quantity is defined.

The merits of the standardized pricking probe technique are as follows: its field procedure and data processing are simple, it is cheap and relatively quick; it does not need any electronic instrument, therefore there are no investment costs and there is no risk of technical failures; the technique can be applied even among the most unfavourable field conditions like e.g. bad weather, extreme topography, dense undergrowth, etc.; At the same time, the standardized pricking probe method should be applied only in areas, where the possible damaging of the buried structures is excluded.


Pricking probe Geophysics Archaeological survey Geoelectrics Geomagnetics GPR Mapping 



Hungarian Research Fund (K049604 and 61013), Bolyai Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Sándor Szalai). Field assistance: András Koppán, Attila Novák, Krisztina Rokob, János Túri, Árpád Kis, Mihály Varga; also Gábor Gombás and Kitti Szokoli (students of University of West-Hungary). Georadar data processing was made by Boriszláv Neducza (ELGI); geoelectric data processing was made by Attila Novák. Local technical support was provided by Péter Vincze, Károly Kollár and János Csicsmann. Comments by Antal Ádám, Gábor Újvári and the Reviewers were very helpful.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Szalai
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • I. Lemperger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Á. M. Pattantyús
    • 3
  • L. Szarka
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.MTA CSFK GGISopronHungary
  2. 2.University of West-HungarySopronHungary
  3. 3.Eötvös Loránd Geophysical Institute of HungaryBudapestHungary

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