Desktop Survey; Knossos; Flavia Solva

What is a Desk Top Survey?

A desk top survey is where an archaeologist does all of the research on a site at their desk. They do not go out into the field (the actual site itself). The reason for a desk top survey may be to find out what is there, what was there, what other archaeological work has been undertaken at the site, and what is currently known about it, and to pull together all of the information. Basically office-based research!

Looking at a site, or area, the work is undertaken usually on a computer, with contact being made to other archaeologists and researches by phone and email.

Desk Top Study ©Sue Carter
Desk Top Study
©Sue Carter

Information  is gathered from libraries, archives, records offices, local historical and archaeological societies, as well as from people who know about the site personally – if there family lived or worked there. Other information can be found from;

Historical documents – these are a goldmine of information. They include

        • who has held the land throughout history
        • wills
        • personal diaries
        • tithe awards
        • show how the land has been used over time
        • buildings that may have been, or are still there
        • personal and official letters
        • maps
Will of William Shakespeare ©Wiki Commons
Will of William Shakespeare
©Wiki Commons

Archaeological Information – this can come from a number of places including, but not limited to (in the UK),

        • The Archaeological Data Service
        • National Monument Records
        • Pastscape
        • Historical Environment Records
        • Thesis and reports kept at Universities
        • Local and National archaeological companies, such as Wessex Archaeology and Allen Archaeology.

Images – These can be useful in showing how older places may have once looked, and possibly how they have changed over time and includes

        • Old photographs
        • Old drawings and paintings
        • Engravings
        • Personal photos that people once associated with the site may still have in their personal records.
Brook Farm Engraving ©Wiki Commons
Brook Farm Engraving
©Wiki Commons

Oral accounts – These are helpful as people know of, or possess

        • Personal family photographs and stories associated with a place or area, and
        • Family stories associated with a place or area

Myths, legends, folklore and traditions – these can give an insight as to old stories that may have been passed down through hundreds of years,

        • Traditional stories
        • Folklore – oral stories passed down through centuries
        • Traditions -a belief or custom in a local area
        • Myths – traditional story based in supernatural events or beings
        • Legends – stories told as if they were fact about past times
The Death of King Arthur ©Wiki Commons
The Death of King Arthur
©Wiki Commons

Research work and desktop studies are what some archaeologists do full time – they never actually get to dig – but they like it that way !



Archaeology Wow!! –  Knossos

Knossos – also known as the Palace of Knossos, Knossus, Cnossus.

Knossos was uncovered in extensive excavations in 1900 by Arthur Evans and David George Hogarth, at Heraklion, on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean.

The site dates from 7000 BC when it was first settled, with the actual Palace dating from 1900 BC. It was abandoned between 1380 BC – 1100 BC.

The site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and consists of administration buildings and a palace complex from the Minoan Culture.

Palace of Knosses ©Bernard Gagnon
Palace of Knosses
©Bernard Gagnon

The 1900 excavations were undertaken at a place where local people had found old seals and coins from the Minoan civilization, and the archaeologists soon discovered the palace complex which had a central court.

The palace itself dates to between 1700 BC – 1400 BC but was repaired following local earthquakes. Altogether there are 1300 rooms connected by a series of corridors. The site had three water systems to keep the place clean and healthy, including an aqueduct.

Lots of pottery and jars were still found in their original storage areas, in position, as when they had last been used.

Finds from Knosses ©Wiki Commons
Finds from Knosses
©Wiki Commons

The main and most beautiful room of the complex has been called the Throne Room. It has an alabaster stone seat against one wall, believed to have been the throne. The room was beautifully decorated with wall fresco’s, but the most famous of the fresco’s being that of the Leaping Bull which was found in the East Wing. It is believed that young Minoan men actually did this as a sport!

Bull Fresco ©Wiki Commons
Bull Fresco
©Wiki Commons

Knossos really was an incredible discovery and led to further work on uncovering the once little known world of the Minoan Civilization!


      • Driessen. J. 1990. An Early Destruction in the Mycenaean Palace at Knossos: A New Interpretation of the Excavation Field-notes of the South-east Area of the West Wing. Belgium: Leuven University Press.
      • Runnels. C. N., & Murray. P. 2001. Greece Before History: An Archaeological Companion and Guide. Stanford University: Stanford University Press, 2001.
      • Scarre. C., & Stefoff. R. 2003. The Palace of Minos at Knossos. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Archaeological Site Guide – Flavia Solva, Austria

Flavia Solva is a Roman site in Austria. It dates from around AD 15 when the Romans took over the area. In AD 70 it became a municipium (town) under the Roma Emperor Vespasian (AD 69-79). Its name comes from the local name of Solva and the Roman Flavia, given by Emperor Vespasian, which was his family name.

Flavia Slova Model Reconstruction ©Wiki Commons
Flavia Slova Model Reconstruction
©Wiki Commons

The town was laid out in the typical Roman grid system of roads and included a small sized amphitheater measuring 80 m x 35 m. The city was located on a minor trade route but it made its wealth from agriculture.

The Roman town was raided in AD 166 but rebuilt under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161 – 180). However, following another, more destructive raid in AD 405, possibly by a Germanic tribe, the city was destroyed and abandoned.

Flavia Solva Hypocaust ©Wiki Commons
Flavia Solva Hypocaust
©Wiki Commons

Over the years stone was robbed from its buildings and taken away. Most of the old Roman town was covered over by modern planning but in 1845 the site was identified as the lost town of Flavia Solva by local priest Richard Knabl.

Near the end of the twentieth century the local government stepped in and protected the remaining parts of the Roman town that have survived. Geophysical surveys were undertaken to identify further remains.

Geophys of Flavia Solva © Austrian Archaeological Institute
Geophys of Flavia Solva
© Austrian Archaeological Institute

There is now a museum at the site and is well worth a visit!!



Great Books to Read…….

Great Web Pages to Look At…….

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