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By Thomas G. Whitley and Inna Moore

2012 Computer Applications in Archaeology Conference (Southampton, UK)

Between September 2010 and September 2011, Brockington and Associates developed a GIS-based archaeological predictive model for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Vicksburg District. The primary goal of this investigation was to develop a management framework within which land areas sensitive to the presence of archaeological resources could be identified prior to any federal, federally-funded, or federally-permitted undertaking.

The Vicksburg District of the USACE covers the Lower Mississippi River Basin between West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, and Phillips County, Arkansas. The jurisdictional area covers a little less than 43 million acres of land (just over 17.4 million hectares) within 125 counties or parishes (60 in Mississippi, 33 in Arkansas, and 32 in Louisiana). The vast majority of the terrain is generally flat and well watered, with prime agricultural lands situated in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain running through the center of the district, and heavily forested areas in the rolling hills of the South-Central and Southeastern Plains.

The model presented here uses a series of ecological and biological indicator variables to derive habitat suitability and models of economic and caloric returns. These surfaces are in turn used to generate predictive surfaces of where archaeological sites are likely to occur on the basis of specific temporal periods and human behavioral hypotheses. In this sense it is a "deductive" model and is not derived from a dataset of site locations, but it is derived from pre-existing ideas of human settlement in the region. Here we present the basics of the model framework, the approach, and the preliminary results. Along with these findings are the outline for the next step in the modeling process (field testing) and problems encountered with the nature of existing datasets.

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