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Geophysical Surveys as Landscape Archaeology

  • Kenneth L. Kvamme (a1)

Recent advances in technology and practice allow geophysical surveys in archaeology to produce maps of subsurface features over large areas and in potentially great detail. It is shown through a series of case studies from two regions in North America that archaeo-geophysical surveys can produce primary information suitable for the study of site content, structure and organization, for examining spatial patterns and relationships, and for directly confronting specific questions about a site and the past. Because large buried cultural landscapes can now be revealed, it is argued that an alternative perspective on regional or landscape archaeology may be possible because space can be viewed in terms of tens of hectares as opposed to the tens of square meters typical of archaeological excavations. Moreover, by placing focus on such buried features as dwellings, storage facilities, public structures, middens, fortifications, trails, or garden spaces that are not commonly revealed through most contemporary surface inspection methods, a richer view of archaeology, the past, and cultural landscapes can be achieved. Archaeo-geophysical surveys can also play an important role in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) contexts as feature discovery tools for focusing expensive excavations, thereby reducing the amount needed and lowering costs. Their utility is weighed against shovel test pits as a primitive and costly form of prospecting.


La práctica y los recientes avances tecnológicos en el área de la arqueología han hecho posible, mediante el uso de inspecciones geofísicas, la producción de mapas que no sólo abarcan grandes extensionés de terreno, sino que también muestran, potencialmente en gran detalle, diversos aspectos del subsuelo. A través de una serie de estudios realizados en dos regiones de Norteamérica, se ha demostrado que las inspecciones arqueo-geofísicas pueden producir información primaria oportuna y de gran beneficio para el estudio de aspectos arqueológicos. Estos aspectos incluyen el contenido, la estructura y la organización de un sitio, así como los patrones y las relaciones espaciales de é ste. Estas inspecciones también ayudan a responder preguntas específicas acerca de un sitio arqueológico y de su pasado, ya que con la ayuda de esta tecnología pueden ser expuestas grandes extensiones de áreas culturales bajo suelo. Se afirma en este ensayo que una perspectiva diferente, en cuanto a la arqueología regional o panorámica, podría ser posible. Este nuevo enfoque proporciona una nueva alternativa debido a que el espacio de un sitio cultural puede ser examinado en decenas de hectáreas y no en decenas de metros cuadrados, típico de las excavaciones arqueoló gicas tradicionales. Además, al enfocarse en áreas bajo tierra que no son comúnmente reveladas por medio de los métodos de inspección de superficie contemporáneos (áreas de habitación y de almacenaje, estructuras públicas, fortificaciones, senderos, o zonas de desechos y áreas de hortalizas), se puede obtener una perspectiva arqueológica más amplia del pasado y de los paisajes culturales. Las inspecciones arqueo-geofísicas pueden también tener un papel importante en contextos de Administración de Recursos Culturales (CRM) como instrumento principal en la dirección de excavaciones costosas, minimizando así cantidades antes requeridas y reduciendo costos. La utilidad de estas inspecciones se contrapone a las excavaciones de muestra pequeña como una forma primitiva y costosa de exploración.

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American Antiquity
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