Archaeological Remote Sensing
Research in the Yazoo Basin
A History and Evaluation
Jay K. Johnson
The following will be a broadly historical review of remote sensing applications in the archaeology of the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV). By LMV, I mean the Mississippi River drainage from approximately the Missouri/ Arkansas line south, although I will be a little flexible in this definition, particularly in the early period. By remote sensing, I mean to include any technique that allows the near-surface of the earth to be characterized at a distance. Most people think of satellites when you mention remote sensing, but sometimes, in the case of many geophysical techniques, the sensor is at, on, or intruded into the surface of the earth but still measuring soil features that are remote from the instrument. The goal of this summary is to provide a general understanding of the factors involved in the development of these techniques and a set of recommendations for future applications.
Remote sensing in archaeology got off to a precocious beginning in Mississippi as a result of a fortunate set of circumstances. Mark Williams, with a brand new undergraduate degree in anthropology and a background in electronics, was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi during the early 1970s. His job as an instructor allowed him a good deal of free time in the afternoons, which he spent volunteering on local archaeology projects (Mark Williams, personal communication 2004). This included John Connaway and Sam McGahey's search for Fort Maurepas in Ocean Springs. Mark and his father had been experimenting with building a soil-resistance meter suitable for archaeological prospection (Williams 1984) and Mark employed an early, twoprobe version of the device in the Fort Maurepas project. The project was frustrated by the fact that the most likely location for the fort is along a waterfront bluff line in Ocean Springs that had become prime real estate, with big houses