2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 150-4
Presentation Time: 2:20 PM


MANDEL, Rolfe, Kansas Geological Survey, Univ of Kansas, 1930 Constant Ave, Lawrence, KS 66047-3726, mandel@ku.edu

The search for evidence of people in the New World before Clovis is one of the hottest topics in American archaeology. The material remains of pre-Clovis people, however, are elusive; few unequivocal sites >13.5 ka have been recorded. It is likely that a small, late-Pleistocene human population left a sparse record that has passed through a geologic filter. Archaeologists have been turning to geoarchaeologists to gain a better understanding of that filter and the specific effects of landscape evolution on the early record.

Geoarchaeologists have demonstrated that by applying geoscientific methods and theories to an archaeological problem, they can provide a means to systematically search for pre-Clovis cultural deposits. Such is the case in the Great Plains, where geoarchaeology has played an important role in that search. For example, geoarchaeological investigations that involved detailed assessments of late-Quaternary alluvial stratigraphy in multiple drainage basins in the region have revealed temporal and spatial patterns of fluvial system behavior that control the preservation and visibility of pre-Clovis cultural deposits. Those patterns have been assessed in order to target areas for archaeological survey. Another example is a geoarchaeological investigation in the Central Plains that involved systematic deep exploration of alluvial deposits and associated buried soils. That effort resulted in the discovery of buried paleosols representing pre-Clovis-age landscapes, and yielded new information about late-Pleistocene paleoenvironments. Recently, geoarchaeological studies in the Plains have considered the effects of late-Pleistocene loess deposition on the early archaeological record, a factor that has been largely ignored by archaeologists.

In sum, geoarchaeological research in the Great Plains has employed novel, and often multidisciplinary, approaches to searching for the pre-Clovis archaeological record. By applying methods and theories that are germane to their discipline, geoarchaeologists are moving beyond the role of simply providing descriptions of the geologic context of early archaeological sites; they are developing regional models of landscape evolution that permit estimates of an area’s potential for harboring buried pre-Clovis cultural deposits.