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We prepared for our archaeological program at Palenque with a Ground Penetrating Radar study in 1996. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a machine that emits a pulse of radio-frequency electromagnetic energy into the ground, reads variations in electrical signatures, and then translates the results into a series of colored charts.

Certain signatures indicate soft spots or voids surrounded by harder materials. These particular signatures are called "anomalies".

We use the locations of these anomolies to determine where to dig and then compare the results of what we found to what the machine predicted. Without getting too technical, we are testing this machine to see if we can use it to locate structures, objects and artifacts below the ground without having to dig everything up to find out.

By applying this new technology to traditional archaeological methodology we hope to refine the excavation process by maximizing efficiency and minimizing destruction. (More about GPR.)

The actual archaeology began in May 1997. Armed with the results of the GPR study, we analyzed the data, came to the field with our plan of attack, located the anomalies on various structures and plazas and dug a series of test pits.

Excavations began on the western face of the Temple of the Cross, the largest of the Cross Group, where a very interesting series of platforms seems to have been laid out using painted stones along the edge. (More about the Cross Group.)

Our first excavations were to investigate five radar anomalies located on the terraced platform of the Temple of the Cross. The excavations also provide information concerning the construction of the platform relative to the bedrock knoll it was built upon. Four of the anomalies were located on the westernmost slope of the terraced platform and the fifth is located beneath the third landing (descanso) of the southern stairway.

The anomalies indicate possible voids between relatively hard bedrock, buried structural features, or areas with variable densities of fill.

A considerable concentration of flowstone was found. It was suspected that this flowstone might originate from a cave or extinct spring. To investigate this hypothesis, the excavation was expanded to the up slow following the flow stone to investigate its source.