The BREBEMI project, was set up in response to a major motorway proposal (about 120 km in length) linking the towns of Brescia, Bergamo and Milan in northern Italy. Within this project, for the first time in Italy, a set of non‐invasive procedures is used systematically in order to reduce archaeological risk in advance of motorway construction.

Fig. 1 – General overview of the motorway path and outline of the landscape pattern (north above)

This innovative project relies on the methodical collection of information from historical and geographical documentary sources, along with geomorphological analysis, the examination of existing vertical aerial photography, the collection of new data through targeted aerial survey and oblique aerial photography, the acquisition of LiDAR data along the whole of the motorway route (160 km2 at a resolution of 4 points square m) and the systematic collection for very substantial areas of both magnetic (AMP) and geoelectrical (ARP) geophysical data – a total so far of 438 ha of AMP and ARP data (mesh 0.5 Å~ 0.5m and 0.5 Å~ 0.08m respectively).

Fig.2 – Geophysical instruments used during the survey. Left: the Automatic Magnetic Profiler (AMP© Geocarta), capable of recording up to 20ha/day. Right: the Automatic Resistivity Profiler (ARP© Geocarta), capable of recording up to 4ha/day. To increase productivity within the project two ARP instruments were often used simultaneously.


Test excavations are planned systematically to verify anomalies and the Superintendency for the Region of Lombardy is also initiating random trenching for a total of 5% of the surveyed area. A GIS platform for the project has been designed to manage and integrate all of the data at every stage of development (from data acquisition in the field to interpretation and field checking) as well as to demonstrate overall patterns and to create predictive models. The objectives of the project are to reduce as far as possible uncertainty about the presence of archaeological remains along the route and in particular to identify areas which should be protected from destruction because of the presence of either upstanding or buried archaeological remains. It is our belief that this project will lead to a great improvement in ‘rescue’ and ‘preventive’ archaeology, not only from technological development but also from a more consistent application of ‘total archaeology’ and a ‘global’ historical approach. Only then will it be possible to reduce the archaeological risk and maximize the archaeological returns from preventive and rescue archaeology.

Fig. 3 – Extracts from the magnetic map represented with values ±15 nt, north above, with related interpretation and ground-truthing by excavation. Top left: a structure related to water management. Top right: a feature (interpretation with red line) that was expected to be (and was) a kiln (blue line should be associated with test excavation area). Centre: circular features with numerous parallels throughout Europe as [Bronze Age] round barrows, with ground-truthing confirming this interpretation. Bottom: a feature of a size and shape that finds parallels within Italy and elsewhere as a medieval mound or motte; the site still awaits verified by excavation. The variation in the background noise pattern can be seen between the right and the left plot.