Indiana Jones and Tombraider were nowhere in sight at the 2009 field season at the suspected Fort Shackelford site on the Big Cypress Reservation. While the archaeologists at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum are not being chased by Russian spies, we do have some exciting things happening that impact the archaeological community. The following is an account from one of our field technicians on his experience in the field:
My name is Derek Braun. I am an archaeological field technician for the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS), but I also assist and conduct Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) Surveys for the TAS and Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). GPR is a non-invasive geophysical surveying technique which can be used to find some archaeological features. In layman’s terms, “GPR works by sending a tiny pulse of energy into a material and recording the strength and the time required for the return of any reflected signal http://www.geophysical.com/WhatIsGPR.htm, (2010).” The basic steps for GPR are as follows: a survey is conducted over an area likely to have archaeological remains, the data has to be processed to make a visual image showing high reflection areas (possible archaeological features), and finally the high reflection areas are ground truthed or excavated to determine an explanation for said anomaly. For more detailed information see the GSSI website posted above. One of the most common uses in archaeology for GPR is cemetery mapping.
While employed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF), I have assisted Dr. Kent Schneider with the GPR survey for the Fort Shackelford relocation project. Ft. Shackelford was an early to mid-nineteenth century military fort located on the Big Cypress Reservation. We surveyed a large portion of land surrounding the Fort Shackelford monument. In the spring of 2009, an archaeological field school was conducted under the supervision of the STOF-THPO, and the Florida Golf Coast University. The field school provided a chance to ground truth some of the high reflection anomalies found after the processing of the GPR data for the Fort Shackelford relocation project survey. Unfortunately, no archaeological features were located during the field school. This should not reflect negatively on GPR, because like any process negative results will exist. Personally, I have seen a number of archaeological features located using GPR in the academic and professional field. Hopefully this brief glimpse into GPR will inspire some of you to look into or pursue a career in geophysical surveying techniques for archaeology.
If you are interested in learning more about Ft. Shackelford or about the Tribal Historic Preservation Office in general, join us at the Florida Anthropological Society Meeting which will be held on May 7-9, 2010 in Fort Myers. We will be discussing the results of a unique collaborative research project between the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Anthropology Program at Florida Gulf Coast University. Hope to see you there!