Skip to comments.New Device Offers A Peek At Our Deeply Buried Past
Posted on 06/27/2003 11:25:09 PM PDT by goody2shooz
Mark Grasmueck can see underground and, without hardly anyone noticing, he has been peeking below downtown Miami.
Grasmueck, a University of Miami geophysicist, is quietly working with archaeologists on the planned One Miami development in the heart of Miami just north of the Dupont Plaza hotel -- a site that almost certainly harbors ancient treasure.
What he sees as far as 20 feet under the asphalt -- and how he sees it -- could revolutionize archaeology, help experts assure the purity of our drinking water and reveal new details of South Florida's 120,000-year-old limestone foundation.
''The deeper you go, the more back in time you go,'' said Grasmueck, a slim, bespectacled assistant professor who was born and educated in Switzerland.
So you can see underground? ''Yes,'' he said.
You are Superman? ``Well, not exactly.''
Grasmueck, 36, has developed a device that he slowly and methodically pulls backward like a reverse lawn mower, each time targeting a four-inch strip of ground.
A particularly sophisticated form of ground-penetrating radar, the device visually slices the earth into fine layers. When reassembled, the exquisitely thin images create a movie that takes the viewer on an underground tour.
He tested his ground-breaking technology two years ago near Coconut Grove, creating a one-minute subterranean view of Ingraham Terrace Park.
Now, he and noted archaeologist Robert Carr are fine-tuning the device in downtown Miami, hoping it will help them find ancient pottery, primitive tools and other artifacts below the six acres of parking lots north of the Dupont Plaza.
A 24-second movie produced by Grasmueck already has identified promising archaeological targets there, perhaps evidence left by the now extinct Tequesta Indians who carved the Miami Circle on the other side of the Miami River.
The film shows a possible pattern of post holes and even possible burial sites, though other explanations -- including natural solution holes -- are possible. More precise analysis of the images is under way, and Carr is preparing to ''ground-truth'' the findings by digging up areas pinpointed by the film.
''I was stunned when I saw this,'' Carr said. ``He produces what appears to be an X-ray movie of what's below the ground. It's like the greatest science fiction film you ever saw. Nothing like this has ever been done in the history of archaeology.''
Now destined to become the site of luxury condominiums, stores and offices, the land once was covered by the main Tequesta village. Also here over past centuries were a Tequesta burial mound, early Spanish forts, the 19th century Fort Dallas and the Royal Palm Hotel.
Under one corner of the site, Carr and his team already have found pottery shards, musket balls and discarded animal bones and shells.
''We haven't found anything highly unusual yet, but we know we're on the right track,'' he said.
That exploration was conducted the way archaeology always has been conducted: by guessing and digging. But the need to perform labor-intensive, large-scale excavations might be eliminated -- if Grasmueck's technology works.
On May 25, he and a team of four scientists methodically pulled his device through 200 passes -- called transects -- over a 66-foot-by-76-foot grid in a parking lot between Southeast Second and Third streets and Second and Third avenues. It took them all day.
Basically, the machine and its antennae transmit electromagnetic pulses that can penetrate the ground. Return echoes, collected by a receiver, appear slightly different at each survey location, depending on the precise nature of the material they intercept.
When assembled by a sophisticated computer program and analyzed by Grasmueck and his team, the data can point archaeologists to the most promising areas for limited excavation.
The computer ''stacks'' the images in a cube, then slices the cube horizontally, providing the viewer with the illusion of embarking on an underground trip.
As the voyage unfolds, anomalies -- small circles that might be post holes, oblong shapes that could be graves, and other irregularities -- come into view.
''What gives us echoes are changes in soil type and moisture content, and rocks and pipes and artifacts,'' Grasmueck said. ``Everything that is different from the surrounding material gives a return, an echo.''
Some antennae can send waves as deep as 100 feet under Florida, but at a cost in clarity. Such penetrations might soon be used to track salt-water intrusion into South Florida's water table and to help reconstruct the formation of the region's foundations.
For the One Miami site, Grasmueck chose antennae that balanced depth with clarity, providing what laymen might consider a somewhat muddy image but one that he and other experts consider remarkably clear.
''Here you see the asphalt,'' Grasmueck said, looking at the film in his office at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science on Virginia Key, ``and then they put in a bit of crushed rock and the soil and the midden deposits that Bob Carr is after and then the Miami oolite limestone.''
Midden is the black, earth-like substance formed by the debris of ancient cultures. It is the treasure chest of local archaeologists.
Carr and Grasmueck have formed a symbiotic professional relationship. Carr, who helped discover the Miami Circle and often conducts urban archaeology as bulldozers lurk close, needs tools that will make his work more efficient. Grasmueck must rely on Carr to help him test or ''ground-truth'' his device by seeing what is really under the site.
In about a month, Carr plans to use photos and maps developed by Grasmueck as an underground guide to the One Miami site.
Said Carr: ``This is very exciting. We're developing the language of how to interpret this kind of data. Nothing like this has ever been done in archaeology.''
Grasmueck, asked whether he plans to be on site when Carr tests the new system, said: ``Yes, of course. I'm very curious to see what comes out of that ground.''
. . .a humbling investigation. . .and a good point for discovery of WMD. . .wonder if they have even considered this. . .
I suspect it is a combination of increased resolution and the software. Sounds like the equivalent of MRI for archaeologists.
If the prototype is THIS good, think what it'll be like after a few years of development.
Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathje, Cullen Murphy (Contributor), William Ratheje"
"One of the central tenets of the University of Arizona's Garbage Project is that "what people have owned--and thrown away--can speak more eloquently, informatively, and truthfully about the lives they lead than they themselves ever may." Project garbologists have alchemized more than 250,000 pounds of refuse--from landfills and from trash cans in selected neighborhoods--into a treasure trove for experts in marketing and consumer research, census studies and environmentalism. Garbologists have determined that people waste three times more beef when the meat is in short supply than when it is plentiful; that many women use birth-control pills incorrectly; and that lower-income families consistently buy small-size, brand-name products rather than cheaper generic ones. Erudite and witty cultural tour guides, Rathje, an archeologist and anthropologist who directs the Project, and Atlantic managing editor Murphy claim that our garbage problems are solvable; that, with proper safeguards, incineration may be a viable option in some communities; and that paper--not disposable diapers or fast-food packaging--is a chief culprit in overloading landfills. Illustrated. First serial to Smithsonian; BOMC and QPB alternates; author tour."
Well now, perhaps we'll finally be able to find out if any hidden chambers or treasures still exist below the great pyramids and the Sphinx ;-)
The shutdown cost some like $1.3M or 3.1M for the day so the
dumpster divers could go wild, and maybe even bring up some
long dormant virus or bacteria.
The anthropologist in me wants to know the origin and meaning of 'a lead pipe cinch?'
Today we present yet another chapter in our search for the origins of the phrase "lead pipe cinch," meaning a task or accomplishment that is so easy as to be a certainty. Previous theories put forward have included using a lead pipe as a threat to ensure cooperation, as well as the use of a lead pipe as a means of "deflating" a horse which has puffed up its belly to avoid being "cinched" and saddled. Now J.R. Latimer, a reader in Mexico, and Dennis Engbring, from Green Bay, WI, have both e-mailed to me a very convincing "plumbing- based" explanation for the term. Mr. Latimer goes further and deflates the "horse" theory. Mr. Latimer writes:
"I lived for many years in Africa where often one found an older, low-tech form of plumbing. Lead piping was/is used to make critical junctures, and it is "cinched" to the pieces it connects, i.e., the faucet/tap and the incoming pipe. This makes for a very sure, no- leak joint, and to my understanding, the technique has been used since Roman times. Thus the expression "lead pipe cinch" meaning a sure thing or absolutely.
"As for using a pipe to cinch up a saddle, it seems unlikely. I spent some time in a combat active cavalry unit and the standard method to deflate a horse was to kick it in the belly and when it exhaled you pulled the cinch tight. It sounds cruel, but it almost seemed a game for the horse -- anyway, most of the horses don't do this. Growing up in Texas I don't recall ever seeing a pipe laying around a corral and NEVER have I heard of a cowboy or horse soldier carrying one. I suspect the twisting pipe method would get an admiring glance from an inquisitor, but would receive guffaws or worse from other riders. Also, the twisting cinch would pinch the horse, possibly injuring it a place that also gets rubbed. Not good."