GIS, Remote Sensing, and Excavation in the Carden Bottoms
An important tool we will use in this project is non-invasive, near-surface archaeogeophysical prospecting, otherwise known as remote sensing (Clark 1996; Conyers and Goodman 1997; Gaffney and Gator 2003; Kvamme 2001). Archeological sites are the product of cultural and natural formation processes that produce distinctive topographic and physical properties. Archaeogeophysical technologies provide the capability to record the location and strength of those properties before digging begins. Five geophysical technologies will be used to examine our selected Carden Bottoms sites. Magnetometry measures small changes in the earth’s magnetic field and can identify locations where topsoil has been removed and replaced (when, for example, a pit has been dug and then filled in with different material) or where buried sediments have been burned (e.g., hearths, burned houses, etc.). Resistivity and conductivity are measures of the receptivity of underground materials (such as natural sediments versus cultural features) to the flow of electricity. Magnetic susceptibility is a measure of the extent to which underground materials will accept and maintain a magnetic charge. Ground penetrating radar records the speed and shape of radar energy emitted at the surface and reflected back by underground materials, thus producing images of buried features such as square house floors, round refuse pits and elongated burial shafts. Through post-processing of the geophysical data collected in the field, maps of sub-surface anomalies can be produced and geo-referenced to field coordinates that can be accurately located on the ground for follow-up archeological excavation. The Arkansas Archeological Survey owns the complete set of instruments required to conduct this remote sensing work, which it will make available for the duration of this project.
Well beyond the utility of discovering individual archeological features, the approach described here can be used to examine entire archaeological sites in sufficient detail (but with minimal excavation) to reconstruct overall site structure and the spatial organization of activity areas, permitting us to make interpretations concerning social organization, ritual practices, and other cultural phenomena (Lockhart 2007; see also http://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/archinfo/grandview.html).