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Preserving archaeology and culture for our future

OLD PUEBLO ARCHAEOLOGY BULLETIN ARTICLE ON GROUND-PENETRATING RADAR

The latest issue of the Old Pueblo Archaeology quarterly bulletin features an article titled “Advances in the Use of Ground-Penetrating Radar at Archaeological Sites in Southern Arizona” by archaeologist Dr. Lawrence B. “Larry” Conyers, a University of Denver Department of Anthropology professor who has pioneered in archaeological explorations using the sophisticated ground-penetrating radar, or “GPR,” remote-sensing technique. Larry gave a presentation on this topic for Old Pueblo Archaeology Center’s monthly “Third Thursday Food for Thought” lecture series in January 2012.

Researchers in the Southwest traditionally have determined the extent of buried archaeological sites by identifying scatters of artifacts on the ground surface, or by using random shovel tests or backhoe trenches. These common discovery methods have their drawbacks, however, because either natural or human-caused processes such as flooding, dust storms, plowing, or urban sprawl can obscure surface artifact distributions. In some instances, these processes can make identification of archaeological features impossible if artifacts are buried by sediment and have not been brought to the surface by some kind of disturbance, such as erosion or burrowing animals. These potential biases can, in turn, result in misleading or inaccurate characterizations of subsurface deposits.

Although backhoe trenching or shovel testing can help resolve some of these issues, these techniques tend to be costly and destructive, and the test excavations still may miss finding buried archaeological features. In this bulletin Larry Conyers discusses some of the ways in which the well-tested, nondestructive GPR geophysical survey method has been used recently to discover and map buried features at archaeological sites across southern Arizona. Sites in this region at which he has used GPR assessment occur in a variety of environmental settings, contain different kinds of cultural features (e.g., canals, agricultural fields, adobe walls), and range in age from the Early Agricultural period (ca. 1200-800 BC) to the Hohokam Classic period (ca. AD 1150-1450). These examples not only illustrate how GPR can compliment traditional archaeological discovery methods, they also show how GPR can provide a viable alternative to traditional methods when archaeological excavation is not an option. We think you will find this issue interesting, and we will be happy to provide you with more information upon request.

Please note that the publication-series date on this latest bulletin is June 2011 because Old Pueblo is still behind schedule for producing our bulletins. We are working to get back on schedule in the next few months.

Like every issue, this latest one is written in a nontechnical format, includes ample illustrations, and is published electronically in pdf format for on-line access. Each issue of Old Pueblo Archaeology includes one or more feature articles about southwestern archaeology, history, or cultures and provides news about Old Pueblo Archaeology Center’s activities and program offerings. Previous issues of Old Pueblo Archaeology are posted on our web site at http://www.oldpueblo.org/pubs.html. Check them out to get an idea of what we include in each issue.

If you would like to start receiving the Old Pueblo Archaeology bulletins, please visit our Membership web page at http://www.oldpueblo.org/member.html or call Old Pueblo at 520-798-1201 to start your membership or subscription using your Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or Diners Club card.

by Allen Dart, RPA
Executive Director, Old Pueblo Archaeology Center

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