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Moderate-Resolution Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analyses of Microclimates, Mounds, and Maize in the Northern Great Lakes

  • Meghan C.L. Howey (a1), Michael Palace (a2), Crystal H. McMichael (a3) and Bobby Braswell (a4)

Remote sensing applications are increasingly common in archaeology but they often focus on high resolution imagery and direct archaeological site detection. Moderate spatial resolution remote sensing instruments, which have (near) daily repeat intervals, but contain less detailed spectral and spatial information, have been employed much less frequently in archaeology. However, moderate remote sensing data offer distinct advantages for archaeological research as they can be used to relate archaeological, ecological, and climactic data at vast spatial scales. To show this potential, we use moderate remote sensing data to examine the impact of landscape heterogeneity on the spread of indigenous maize horticulture in the northern Great Lakes during Late Precontact (ca. AD 1200-1600). Analyzing National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery, we identify differences in freeze/thaw cycles across inland lakes in Michigan, showing that some large inland lakes produce a microclimatic amelioration, possibly extending the growing season for prehistoric maize cultivation. Conducting geospatial analyses, we find that burial mounds and maize cultivation practices were associated preferentially with larger inland lakes with microclimates. We could not have found these dynamic interrelationships between microclimates, burial mounds, and maize cultivation if not for both the frequent temporal imaging and large spatial coverage provided by moderate resolution remote sensing imagery.

Las utilidades de la teledetección son cada vez más comunes en la arqueología, pero se enfocan con frecuencia en la imaginería de alta resolución y la detección directa de los sitios arqueológicos. Las herramientas de teledetección de resolución espacial moderada, que tienen intervalos de repetición (casi) diarios pero información espectral y espacial menos detallada, han sido empleadas con menor frecuencia en le arqueología. Sin embargo, los datos de la teledirección moderada proporcionan a la investigación arqueológica marcadas ventajas porque pueden usarse para relacionar datos arqueológicos, ecológicos y climáticos a gran escala espacial. Para demostrar esta posibilidad, usamos datos de teledetección moderada para examinar el impacto de la heterogeneidad del paisaje en la difusión de la horticultura indígena de maíz en los Grandes Lagos del norte durante el período Precontacto Tardío (ca. 1200-1600 d.C.). Al analizar las imágenes de NASA MODIS, identificamos diferencias en ciclos de congelación/descongelación a lo largo de los lagos interiores en Michigan que demuestran que algunos grandes lagos interiores producen una mejora microclimática que extiende posiblemente la temporada de crecimiento de la cultivación prehistórica de maíz. Al llevar a cabo análisis geoespaciales, encontramos que los montículos y las prácticas de la cultivación de maíz se asocian preferencialmente con lagos interiores más grandes que tienen microclimas. No habríamos podido encontrar estas interrelaciones dinámicas entre microclimas, montículos y la cultivación de maíz si no hubiera sido por tanto la toma de imágenes de alta frecuencia temporal como la gran cobertura espacial que provee la imaginería de la teledetección de moderada resolución.

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