Geoarchaeology in Iowa
Finding buried archaeological
sites is one of the most vexing methodological problems that presently
faces archaeologists in Iowa. Traditionally, the discovery of buried
sites has been opportunistic and often serendipitous. Many buried sites
are first discovered eroding from stream banks. Others have been found
in the process of buildig roads, digging basements, or quarrying sand
Fortuitous discovery has
its drawbacks. Stream bank exposures are often slumped over. Despite
the thousands of miles of stream banks in Iowa, cutbanks that provide
clear, clean exposures of alluvial sediments are relatively infrequent.
Even more serious, sites discovered during construction or quarrying
are usually seriously damaged before archaeologists can arrive to investigate.
Obviously, it is best
to find the sites before they are damaged, either by construction, quarrying,
or natural erosion. Archaeologists in Iowa seek buried sites in a number
of ways, primarily using backhoes and soil augers.
Backhoes can reach to
depths of 3 m or more, but entering the narrow trenches to inspect the
walls for arifacts and features is dangerous, unless costly and cumbersome
shoring is installed.
Soil augers have been
used in Iowa to reach depths of over 8 m. The manual rotary augers used
by the Office of the State Archaeologist, and others working in the
state, bore a hole with a diameter of about 20 cm. If dug and screened
in 10 cm levels, these tools are capable of detecting buried archaeological
deposits and tracing their lateral extent.
Geophysical methods of
site detection, such as ground penetrating radar and soil resistivity,
have not been extensively applied in Iowa, although their use will undoubtedly
increase with future improvements in technology and interpretation.
Geoarchaeology in Iowa | Stream Valleys | Geoarchaeology of the Uplands in Iowa
| Geoarchaeological Methods in Iowa
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