Prospecting For New Questions: Integrating Geophysics To Define Anthropological Research Objectives And Inform Excavation Strategies At Monumental Sites

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alice Wright Ph.D, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Geophysical data have the potential to significantly contribute to archaeological research projects when effectively integrated with more traditional methods. Although pre-existing archaeological questions about a site may be answered using geophysical methods, beginning an investigation with an extensive geophysical survey can assist in understanding the function and archaeological potential of a site, and may even transform preconceptions about the type and spatial organisation of features that are present. In this way, these prospection tools not only accurately locate and map features to allow recovery of cultural material for identification and dating, we argue that they can go much further, allowing us to prospect for new and appropriate archaeological and anthropological research questions. Such an approach is best realised when geophysical and traditional archaeologists work together to define new objectives and strategies to address them, and by maintaining this collaboration to allow continual feedback between geophysical and archaeological data. A flexible research design is therefore essential in order to allow the methodologies to adapt to the site, the results, and the questions being posed. This methodology is demonstrated through two case studies from mound sites in southeast USA: the transitional Mississippian Washausen site in Illinois; and the Middle Woodland Garden Creek site in North Carolina. In both cases, integrating geophysical methods throughout the archaeological investigations has resulted in multiple phases of generating and addressing new research objectives. Although clearly beneficial at these two mound sites in southeast USA, this interdisciplinary approach has obvious implications well beyond these temporal and geographical areas.

Additional Information

Horsley, T., Wright, A. and Barrier, C. (2014), Prospecting for New Questions: Integrating Geophysics to Define Anthropological Research Objectives and Inform Excavation Strategies at Monumental Sites. Archaeol. Prospect., 21: 75-86. doi:10.1002/arp.1476. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2014
Geophysics, integrated survey, mound, southeast USA, Middle Woodland, Mississippian

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