MAILED: Oct. 19, 2001
EAU CLAIRE — Artifacts, burial sites,
grave robbers, not a typical day for the average researcher unless you’re Indiana Jones,
but for one University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor, that’s just part of the job.
Dr. Harry Jol, associate professor of geography, has been
to over 900 expedition sites. In July, Jol went to help out fellow researchers
in Qumran, Israel, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947.
Jol, ready with the latest in ground penetrating radar
equipment, met up with professors, students and other researchers from all over
the world to conduct excavations to gain more knowledge of the area surrounding
the site of the scrolls. This was the third time he was asked to participate in
an expedition to Israel.
“This is a big project,” Jol said. “This is
international. We are doing this type of research at the university because of
our commitment here to undergraduate research.”
According to Jol, UW-Eau Claire is one of the premier GPR
research institutes in the world and the use of GPR has made it easier for
archaeologists to find objects buried in the ground.
“In the past you had to dig a test pit in the ground to
see how things were sorted out,” said Dr. Robert Barth, associate professor of
geography and anthropology. “Anytime you dig in the ground you destroy it. If
you can get information with out having to destroy it, it’s better. Things
like GPR will help you do it right from the beginning.”
GPR uses radio waves to detect buried objects in any
nonmetallic material. It has evolved to include the penetration of soil, rocks,
and man-made structures. In this expedition researchers found collapsed caves,
pottery, baskets and other artifacts that otherwise were not visible.
One of the most significant finds at the Qumran site was
a zinc coffin. However, grave robbers had already plundered the site by the time
the formal dig began. Researchers speculate that the thieves stole the lid of
the coffin, which may have contained clues to the occupant.
According to Barth, GPR is only used in a minority of
excavations because it’s expensive and archaeologists are usually not trained
in using it. “It’s a specialty that archaeologists bring in,” Barth said.
“Not many people have this knowledge. Ideally you’ll have people in a number
of different fields assisting with your recovery. It’s good to have somebody
like that here (at UW-Eau Claire),” Barth said.
If funding permits, researchers like Jol are brought in
to help with excavations. Jol has used his equipment not only in Israel, but
also all over Canada, France and much of the United States. In Wisconsin, Jol
has conducted studies in Eau Claire, Fort McCoy and at the shorelines of Lake
Superior and Lake Michigan.
“We’re trying to help out local businesses, local
universities, and other countries,” Jol said, noting that the university
provides the necessary training to help these groups obtain objective
information and meet their goals.
Recently, Jol was contacted about using GPR equipment for
search and rescue in New York City.
“I enjoy working with students and teaching and also
going out in the field and trying to solve problems for people both locally and
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Oct. 19, 2001