Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:05 PM
ASSESSING THE POTENTIAL OF SCOUR NUCLEI FOR THE DISCOVERY OF SUBMERGED PREHISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, INNER-TO-MID CONTINENTAL SHELF, GEORGIA BIGHT, U.S.A
For an accurate interpretation of the prehistoric archaeological potential of the U.S. continental shelves it is necessary to be able to locate and excavate sites. The potential sites are oft-times buried by shifting palimpsest sand sheets, clastic sediments or both. In this paper I will describe naturally occurring and anthropogenic bottom features, termed scour nuclei, which can be examined for their potential for exposing, through erosion, buried prehistoric archaeological sites. Otherwise, the detection of these buried sites is difficult if not nearly impossible without the use of "heroic" expensive and/or time-intensive marine survey methods which do not detect the actual site per se but only the landforms which may contain sites. This paper describes research carried out at two scour nuclei located adjacent areas on the mid continental shelf of the Georgia Bight. One of these nuclei is of anthropogenic origin –an artificial reef created by the hull of World War II "Liberty Ship" - while the other nuclei is natural in origin – a "live bottom" outcrop. The author has led over a decade of geoarchaeological research, on the continental shelves, with the work described herein examining these two scour nuclei – anthropogenic and natural - as perhaps representative of the larger population of these sea floor features. One significant advantage of scour nuclei is their observed capacity for generating relatively deep – 2- 3 meter deep erosional features - which clearly exceed the limited capabilities of sediment corers, bottom dredges and grabs, all of which the author has used in the search of archaeological sites on the continental shelf. The use of these scour nuclei for the detection and identification of archaeological-bearing sediments can greatly improve the current methodology utilized for the detection of submerged prehistoric sites. By simply discovering intact archaeological sites, researchers can, for instance, begin to develop a typological and chronological framework for submerged prehistory as found on the U.S. continental shelves. Such data can be incorporated, more broadly, an enhanced knowledge of prehistoric coastal plain cultures of late Pleistocene and early-to-mid Holocene.