Papers on Geophysical Investigations of Woodland and Caddo Sites in the Caddo Area of the Southeastern United States

By Perttula, Timothy K. | Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Papers on Geophysical Investigations of Woodland and Caddo Sites in the Caddo Area of the Southeastern United States


Perttula, Timothy K., Southeastern Archaeology


Geophysical investigations on archaeological sites in the Caddo area of the Southeastern United States have become in recent years a critical part of the investigation of prehistoric and early historic Caddo sites, from small farmsteads and hamlets to large mound centers. The various articles gathered here provide substantive examples of the range of geophysical research that has been undertaken on Woodland and Caddo sites in southwestern Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and East Texas, and how that research has led to a better understanding of the spatial structure and internal organization of habitation sites and mound centers.

Introduction

In recent years, geophysical investigations using magnetometry, ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistivity, electromagnetic conductivity, and magnetic susceptibility have been regularly employed with considerable success on prehistoric and early historic sites across North America, as well as the world, as a means to better understand the cultural past (e.g., Gaffney 2008; Johnson 2006; Kvamme 2007, 2008). With continued innovations in spatial coverage and dataprocessing efforts/ as well as the continued accumulation of site- and region-specific geophysical data sets, it seems certain that geophysical investigations - in concert with expansive archaeological explorations - will provide the requisite information to better characterize and understand, at multiple spatial scales, prehistoric communities and landscapes (see Cheetham 2008; Kvamme 2003).

Previous geophysical investigations at Caddo sites in the Caddo Area of the Southeastern United States have been confined primarily to the large mound centers that are the nexus of local and regionally based Caddo communities, such as the Spiro site along the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma and the George C. Davis site along the Neches River in East Texas, as well as in other mound centers discussed in several articles in this volume, although that is changing with every new geophysical investigation in the region (Walker and Perttula 2008:160-168; see also Selected Bibliography of Caddo Geophysical Investigations, below). Habitation sites of various sizes and intrasite complexities have also come under scrutiny in research projects as well as in the course of Cultural Resource Management projects. In both kinds of sites, illuminating findings have been obtained on Caddo architecture and other geophysical anomalies (such as midden areas and cemeteries, etc.), phases of mound construction, the spatial relationship of geophysical anomalies within sites, and the existence of large and small plazas and courtyards.

Coverage of the Articles

The articles gathered here for this volume of Southeastern Archaeology explore the observed geophysical patterning of anomalies at selected Woodland (ca. 500 B.C. to A.D. 800) and prehistoric and early historic Caddo sites (ca. A.D. 800-1700+) in southwestern Arkansas (articles by Lockhart, McKinnon, and Samuelsen), eastern Oklahoma (the article by Hammerstedt et al.), and East Texas (articles by Maki and Fields and Walker and Perttula). In several cases, as at the Tom Jones (3HE40) and Clement (3Mc8) sites (see articles by Lockhart and Hammerstedt et al., respectively), the geophysical investigations were followed almost immediately, with great success, by intensive archaeological excavations designed to explore the subsurface character of identified geophysical anomalies, typically buried Caddo houses. At the Pine Tree Mound site, however, there was considerable uncertainty in the interpretation of identified geophysical anomalies in a large Caddo village area, and a ground truthing program specifically designed to test geophysical anomalies of interest was not conducted (see article by Maki and Fields). Rather, extensive hand- and machine-aided excavations disclosed an impressive array of features, including at least 11 houses, more than 100 pit features, and 11 Caddo burials.

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