Archaeologists Use Advanced Geospatial Technologies in Summer Field Projects

Posted on 8/28/2008 11:04:04 AM

IUP faculty and student archaeologists have had a busy summer investigating ancient sites and civilizations in Pennsylvania, Cyprus, and New Mexico. An exciting part of these projects was the use of advanced geospatial technologies combined with traditional archaeological research.

Gila Survey

In 2007, the Anthropology and History departments received funding through a State System of Higher Education Technology Fee Special Project Grant to purchase a Trimble GNSS R8 base station and rover for sub-centimeter accuracy in mapping excavation and survey projects.  This past summer, Drs. Beverly Chiarulli (Anthropology) and R. Scott Moore (History) took the R8 on the road to test its capabilities in several field projects.

This summer, Chiarulli and three students, undergraduates Justin De Maio and Tiara Bey and graduate student Germaine McArdle, used the R8 to map nineteenth century artifacts and survey areas in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, test units at the Lemon House in the Allegheny Portage National Historic Site in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, and at the IUP Archaeological Field School site near Blairsville, Pa.
Moore and four students, undergraduates Jon Crowley, Jessie Freas, and Joe Kochinski and graduate student Nick Wise, took the R8 to Cyprus to map the coastal site of Pyla-Koutsopetria. The site of Pyla-Koutsopetria was a wealthy Late Roman village that served as an important regional trading hub for the southeastern area of the island.

The advantage of the R8 for archaeological surveys is that it provides extremely accurate mapping in seconds, allowing a survey team to collect hundreds of survey points in a day compared to the use of hand-held units, which are less accurate and take much longer for each reading. During a three-week period, the team was able to take more than five thousand GPS measurements over a two-kilometer square area, permitting the creation of an extremely accurate topographic map of the coastal region.

In the Gila Archaeological Project, the IUP survey team joined with students and faculty from Howard University in Washington, D.C., students from the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and archaeologists from the National Park Service and the Gila National Forest (GNF). The focus of the project is the Apache Wars of the 1870s and 1880s, which pitted Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American regiments formed after the Civil War, against the Apache.

Dr. Eleanor King of Howard University directs the project, which focuses on how both sides used the landscape, not only for battle but for everyday life by identifying camp sites and battle sites. Chiarulli, De Maio, Bey, and McArdle used the R8 and other hand-held GPS units to map structures and artifacts in a nine thousand-acre section of the Black Range district of the GNF.

The eastern slopes of the Black Range were among the most hotly contested landscapes in this prolonged fight.  Homeland to the Warm Springs Apache, they witnessed many of the most important battles in the Victorio War. This uprising began in the late 1870s under the leadership of chief Victorio and his allies and did not effectively end until well after his death, with the surrender of Geronimo and his allies in 1886.

The Black Range saw some of the last battles fought for freedom and self-determination by the Apache on United States soil. It was also a proving ground for the 9th Cavalry, one of the Buffalo Soldier regiments. One battle alone in these mountains won the regiment three medals of honor. Even though there are some fifty-five known battle sites on Forest land on the eastern slopes of the Black Range, many have never been properly recorded. Although located on National Forest land, these sites remain vulnerable to relic hunters. With their destruction goes important information on exactly what took place in these mountains, as usually all we have are the brief military records of engagements. Even more important is information about where the Apache camped or the soldiers stayed and how they traveled away from the forts and roads.

During the nine days of field work, the IUP team mapped artifacts and structures in nine survey areas including standing structures and possible structures in an abandoned nineteenth century mining town and cemetery, several prehistoric sites, a battle site, and several historic Apache artifacts. They also used a Bartingdon Magnetic Susceptibility survey loop to survey possible residential or camp sites.