Southeastern Section - 60th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2011)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


SERAMUR, Keith C., Boone, NC 28608 and COWAN, Ellen A., Department of Geology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608,

The Sandhills physiographic province is one of the more difficult areas in which to conduct geoarchaeology surveys. The leached, acidic sandy soils, lack of visual stratigraphy in soil profiles and extensive bioturbation all contribute to the challenges in applying geoarchaeological methods to archaeology sites in the Sandhills. However, scientific advances and new methodologies used to analyze and interpret landforms and buried cultural horizons have allowed geoarchaeology to contribute significant data sets that can aid in interpretation of archaeology sites and the lifeways of indigineous cultures.

LiDAR digital elevation models show evidence of evolving Late Pleistocene and Holocene aeolian landforms. Evaluation of statistical parameters of particle size distribution of profile samples show aeolian depositional events within a mirco-stratigraphy often not visible. OSL dating can be used to date these strata. Soil chemistry and magnetic susceptibility can provide evidence of the distribution of activity areas within a site. Soil micromorphology is used to observe evidence of pedogensis, site occupation and bioturbation.

The time and laboratory analysis required to apply these techniques during archaeology studies is expensive and not all techniques work on the different types of occupation areas. Soil chemistry, magnetic susceptibility and soil micromorphology may not be appropriate techniques to use at short-term temporary occupations along migration pathways. However, important evidence of the types of occupations could be obtained using these methodologies at archaeology sites with a history of longer-term occupation near resources such as springs or quarries. This paper presents examples of results generated by applying multiple methodologies to archaeology sites in the Sandhills and illustrates how the evidence obtained from these geoarchaeology investigations can be used in site interpretation.

Examples will include correlating stratigraphy with buried cultural horizons in vertical profiles using soil chemistry and OSL dating. Elevated elemental concentrations are correlated with activity areas across archaeology sites. The relative age of soil horizons and evidence of bioturbation is observed from soil micromorphology in thin section.