Arkansas Archeology Month 2024 is an annual event designed to broaden the public’s interest and appreciation for Arkansas’s archeological resources and to encourage the public’s participation in conservation and preservation efforts. Archeology Month is cosponsored by the Arkansas Archeological Survey and the Arkansas Archeological Society and is made possible through the efforts of supporters throughout the state at parks, libraries, museums, and other agencies and organizations, providing a wide variety of programs, exhibits, hands-on activities, and tours. Please check our Events Calendar and join us in this fun and educational month-long event.
This year’s poster celebrates the archeology of northeast Arkansas as well as archaeogeophysical technologies that allow archeologists a glimpse underground before we even get out a shovel for excavation.
This year’s poster is based on the Richard’s Bridge site, which was the location of the Arkansas Archeological Survey and Arkansas Archeological Society Training Program in 2015 and 2016. This site is one of several sites associated with what archeologists term the Parkin phase – a Late Mississippian chiefdom that existed in northeast Arkansas. Historical accounts identify this group of sites as the chiefdom of Casqui, the capital of which was likely located at what is now Parkin Archeological State Park. Richard’s Bridge, located to the northeast of Parkin, had been recorded as a site for years, but not much work had been done there until it was identified as the site for the Training Program. At that point, Dr. Jami Lockhart, the ARAS’s head of GIS & Archaeogeophysical Research, was brought in to do remote sensing to identify the extent of the site as well as features that would be prime locations for excavation. Tim Mulvihill mapped the site and helped collect the geophysical data.
Multiple remote sensing technologies were used at the site, and two of them are superimposed over a collage of field photographs and maps. The field photographs were taken and map drawings were created to keep a more precise record of what was found in the field during excavation. In this way, archeologists can better utilize field records and associated data in later analysis, like comparing the locational information to geophysical data. The Archeology Month Poster shows how they compare, as well as what was actually seen in the ground during excavation.
The first remote sensing technology (on the top right of the poster) is magnetic susceptibility. Magnetic susceptibility measures how well materials (such as soil, features, and concentrations of artifacts) accept and briefly hold a magnetic charge. When soils are burned or otherwise impacted by humans, these magnetic properties can change, which allows us to see differences in the data that produce the black and white map seen here.
The second technology (second from top right of the poster) is electrical resistance. This technology inserts a series of small metal probes into the ground at measured intervals (~1m). Then, a small electrical charge is induced to measure how efficiently the soils conduct electricity. Soil moisture affects this technology and we know that human digging, piling, and compaction of soil will change these readings in relation to the surrounding, less disturbed soils. We use the readings (measured in ohms, hence resistance) to create a map of the data that shows areas where soil is different from what surrounds it, suggesting human intervention.
There were many similar features in the magnetic susceptibility and electrical resistance data at Richard’s Bridge. They appear to be patterned and are all quite similar in size and shape. Based on the remote sensing data we interpreted them as Native American houses and picked a few of them to excavate to “ground truth” what we were seeing in the data.
The collage of photos (second from bottom right) and the map (bottom right) on the poster show that the remote sensing data does, indeed, show a Mississippian period, or Parkin Phase, house. We saw post holes and a hearth during the excavation as well as a variety of other features often found in Mississippian houses around the 1450s CE. By looking at all of the data together in one composite image, we can appreciate how all of the different levels of work and technology come together to help us better visualize the past.
1981 Parkin: The 1978-1979 Archeological Investigations of a Cross County, Arkansas Site. Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series No. 13. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville.
Morse, Dan F. and Phyllis A. Morse
1983 Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley. Academic Press, New York.
2003. Seeing Beneath the Soil. Prospecting Methods in Archaeology. Routledge. London.
Conyers, L., Goodman, D.
1997 Ground-Penetrating Radar: An Introduction for Archaeologists. Altamira Press. Plymouth.
Gater, J., Gaffney C.
2003 Revealing the Buried Past: Geophysics for Archaeologists. Tempus. Reading Berkshire.
Johnson, J. (ed.).
2006 Remote Sensing in Archaeology: An Explicitly North American Perspective. University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa.
Kvamme, Kenneth L.
2006 Magnetometry: Nature’s Gift to Archaeology. In Remote Sensing in Archaeology: An Explicitly North American Perspective. J. Johnson (ed.) p. 205-233. University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa.
Learn about past Archeology Month events through the links below...