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    Science in Mind

    Physics proving beneficial to archeologists’ mission

    William Griswold, an archeologist with the National Park Service, used a magnetometer at a potential archeological site at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy.
    William Griswold photo
    William Griswold, an archeologist with the National Park Service, used a magnetometer at a potential archeological site at Adams National Historical Park in Quincy.

    Archeology and physics: The two fields seem about as different as can be. Archeologists are concerned with human history, their interests extending as far back as maybe a few million years, when stone tools began to appear. Physicists think on a grander scale, concerned with understanding laws of nature and phenomena that would be the same, whether or not there were human beings around to figure them out.

    On Wednesday, William Griswold, an archeologist with the National Park Service, will explain how the two fields intersect, at Boston College’s Weston Observatory.

    Griswold uses geophysical instruments, including ground-penetrating radar, an electrical conductivity meter, and a magnetometer to explore archeological sites. Those tools enable archeologists to do remote sensing, getting an idea of what is underfoot without disturbing the soil.

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    “What we try and do is identify anomalies below the ground that could be archeological features,” Griswold said in an interview. “Archeology, kind of by its very nature, is a very destructive science, in that whatever we dig up we can never put back. So we have to be meticulous in our examination.”

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    A few years ago, Griswold worked at a site in Minute Man National Park called Bull Tavern. It is thought to be where an 18th-century tavern existed. The building is long gone, but Griswold thinks his instruments have helped reveal where the foundation was.

    Griswold’s talk will be held Wednesday, May 22, at 7 p.m. at the Weston Observatory at 381 Concord Road, Weston. The colloquium is free, but reservations are required. Call 617-552-8300.

    Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.