Author Archives: tgeorgonicas

Using Google Earth in Archaeology

Google Earth and Archaeology.

By Tom Georgonicas

For my 3rd blog post for my directed studies, I thought I would discuss the main program I  decided to use to help complete my report on potential archaeological sites buried under the car parks of Adelaide. I am sure most of you have used Google Earth at some point—either as a way to plot road trips, create maps to a site, make mud maps (I have), or for actual reports and papers. The most widely used version is the free version available online via the Google home page. The better version, dubbed ‘Google Pro’, could set you back around $300.

In relation to my directed study, the use of Google Earth has been an important part of my work. Besides using Google Earth to locate ground level open-air car parks around Adelaide, I have also used Google Earth’s image overlay function to place historic maps of Adelaide over the current satellite image of Adelaide.

Currently I have managed to find 33 car parks around the city of Adelaide that may have potential archaeological value. Google has also added a ‘time scale’ function on Google Earth. It allows the user to review past satellite images of the location they are viewing. In Adelaide, for example, I was able to observe the development in the city from the first satellite image added on Google Earth to the latest image. This function also shows which areas of the city have undergone redevelopment in the past few years.

In 2009, Dr. Adrian Myers, then a grad student from Stanford University used Google Earth for his research on Internment Camps. He quite famously in 2009 used Google Earth, satellite images, aerial photographs and other data on Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to show that the prison had been expanded during the beginning of the War on Terror. It was interesting to see how the Camp had expanded as the war progressed. Myers also states that Google Earth has been used by other researchers to investigate looting of sites over the past few years, as well as locating and recording sites that are in inaccessible or dangerous areas for field work.

In conclusion, Google Earth is a powerful tool that can be utilised in archaeology. Desktop studies, such as my directed study, have been possible because of Google Earth and its functions. But, interestingly enough, Myers also makes the  point that if archaeologists can freely access Google Earth to locate sites, then other people looking for potential sites, such as looters, can also use it.

For those interested in reading up on Google Earth’s use in archaeology and its potential. I would highly recommend these two papers.

‘Field work in the age of digital reproduction’ by Adrian Myers.

‘Camp Delta, Google Earth and the Ethics of Remote Sensing in Archaeology’ by Adrian Myers.

 and finally a link to Google Earth


What do a brewery, two ships and king have in common?

By Tom Georgonicas

I thought I would follow up on my previous blog with a look at other archaeological digs, both nationally and internationally that have taken place in car parks.

Back in 2011, an excavation was carried out on a car park in Hindley Street, Adelaide. The car park was to make way for a new learning centre for the University of South Australia, but before the building began, Austral Archaeology carried out an archaeological assessment of the car park. Excavations were carried out late that year and the results were amazing. Structural remains of a home built in 1838, the Temperance Hotel and a corner of the original West End Brewery were found. A short summary of what was found can be found on the Uni SA website or by clicking here.

Also in 2011t excavations were carried out in a car park in Bunbury, Western Australia. The excavation team, led by members of the Department of Maritime Archaeology from the Western Australian Museum, found three sites relating to shipwrecks. These shipwrecks were the whaling vessels the Samuel Wright and the North America. If you are interested in learning more on these excavations, follow this link provided by the Western Australian Museum. At the end of the page there is a download link of the full report of the site by Ross Anderson and Madeline McAllister.

Last, but not least, in Britain, the remains of King Richard III, the last King of England of the Plantagenet line were discovered underneath a car park  in Leicester, along with the remains of a Grey Friars church.

It caused a worldwide media sensation when the remains were exhumed in August 2012. It was noted at the time of the exhumation that the skeleton showed traces of scoliosis of the spine, an object embedded in the spine and severe injuries to the skull. The use of historic maps was also important to the project. The arrangement and location of the friary buildings were not known. By using a map from the mid 18th century, the team was able to locate the buildings and what areas of the friary had not been built upon over the years. (Buckley et al. 2013)

We all know he was really killed by this guy.

I don’t expect to find kings or ships buried under car parks in Adelaide, but I wrote this to show the archaeological potential that car parks can hold. Progress wise, I am getting there. I am entering the writing phase at the moment, gathering the data and photos etc. Hopefully on my next blog post I can give a sample of my results.
Tom Georgonicas


Buckley. R.,M. Morris, J.Appleby and T.King 2013 ‘The king in the car park’: New light on the death and burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars church, Leicester, in 1485. Antiquity 87: 519-538.

What is beneath Adelaide’s car parks?

My name is Tom Georgonicas; I am currently undertaking a graduate diploma in archaeology and heritage management. As part of my degree I am working on a directed study that aims to investigate the archaeological potential (if any) that could be found under the ground level car parks of the city of Adelaide. For the purpose of this study, the study area is bound between North Terrace, South Terrace, East Terrace and West Terrace. The study is only focussing on ground level open car parks, not multi–storey car parks.

My aims for the directed study are to:

  • Map a current map of ground level car parks in the city of Adelaide on to the 1842 Kingston map and the 1880 Smith survey of Adelaide.
  • Identify the most likely sites with surviving archaeological potential on both maps and see if they overlap.
  • Research what kind of development took place on these sites. Have they interfered with any potential archaeological deposits?
  • Create a scale of archaeological potential for the sites based on my research.

Needless to say, the research is quiet immense and has required hours upon hours of research. To make things simpler I have decided to use Google Earth’s image overlay function, which has allowed me to overlay both the Kingston map and the Smith survey over a satellite image of Adelaide. Results so far have been surprising and promising, with the historical maps revealing structures that no longer remain.

Here is an example of how I am approaching the study.

Below is a satellite image of the south-west corner of Adelaide (corner of West Tce and South Tce)

SW corner of Adelaide

SW corner of Adelaide

Now after adding the Kingston map via image overlay.

SW corner of Adelaide, with Kingston Map.

SW corner of Adelaide, with Kingston Map.

Here are the results after the image overlay function. Lots 626 and 696 reveal that one point, there were structures.

SW corner of Adelaide with the Smith survey over lay.

SW corner of Adelaide with the Smith survey over lay.

The Smith survey is more detailed, going as far as naming some businesses, churches and buildings. I should also note that the image overlay function is only being used as a guide. The real results will be obtained by historical research.

You can access these maps by the State Library of South Australia by clicking the following links online.

1842 Kingston Map

1880 Smith survey