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Prospection in Depth

Welcome

Annually NCPTT hosts “Prospection in Depth,” an integrated, holistic professional development workshop fusing GIS, GPS, and geophysical prospection. What is unique about the course is that it emphasizes the testing of select remotely-sensed phenomena within a robust interpretive context. The latter is possible through annual partnerships with ongoing, long-term research projects. This arrangement creates three unique benefits for workshop participants, in that they:

  • see what archaeological and natural realities structure geophysical data;
  • contribute directly to the interpretation of the site; and therefore
  • interact on a level playing field as researchers, rather than passive student learners.

The webpages you see here add another dimension to the course. Here you can continue to explore the relationship between subsurface remains and the geophysical signals they represent [Figure Intro 5].

The Premise

Understanding how archaeological and natural features structure geophysical, digital data permits more focused fieldwork. This in turn equates to excavation strategies that are:

  • less destructive;
  • more productive intellectually;
  • more productive intellectually;
  • more responsible fiscally.

Sometimes fieldwork is not even necessary.

Figure Intro 1

Figure Intro 1

Geophysics Survey Grids 1-12 from 2006 and 2007.
(Photo by NCPTT)

Prospection in Depth 2006 and 2007

In 2006 and 2007 Prospection in Depth partnered with a long-term, ongoing research project jointly sponsored by Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) and University College London (UCL)1.

In 2006 the first workshop participants conducted geophysical reconnaissance across six grids (Grids 1-6) at a late 1700s plantation (for more information on the site, see below) [Figure Intro 1]. These grids generally were 20x20m in size, although sometimes they were modified to accommodate thick brush [Figure Intro 2].

In 2007 the second class [Figure Intro 4] carried out additional reconnaissance in an additional six grids (Grids 6-12).

Figure Intro 2

Figure Intro 2

Geophysics Survey Grids 1-12 from 2006 and 2007 Georeferenced to Aerial Photograph.
(Photo by NCPTT and Tommy Hailey)

In each year’s course the geophysical survey was followed by formal excavation by both class participants and the academic research project’s personnel [Figure Intro 3].

Site Background

In 1786 an enslaved woman of African descent named Marie-Thérèse Coincoin received her freedom from a Frenchman named Metoyer, her owner with whom she had maintained a roughly decade-long liaison. Metoyer presented her with 68-acres of property astride what was then the Red River, where she lived until circa 1816. She created a successful plantation on this property with the help of at least 16 slaves and her own children. Her descendents eventually formed one of the wealthiest lineages of free people of color in the antebellum Southeast, and today many in the Cane River Creole community trace their ancestry to Coincoin [Figure Intro 7].

Figure Intro 3

Figure Intro 3

Fran Ritchie Puts the Final Touches on a Brick Floor at the Ailhuad St. Anne (16NA529) Plantation that Prospection Participants First Identified as a Radar Anomaly.
(Photo by NCPTT)

A Spanish survey map of the property drawn in 1794 shows a rough rectangle identified as the maison de marie Therese negresse libre (“house of Marie-Thérèse free negress”) [Figure Intro 6]. The few acres surrounding this approximate location have been designated by the State of Louisiana as site 16NA241 [Figure Intro 8]. Its formal name is the Whittington site. Not surprisingly it’s referred to informally as the Coincoin plantation.

Artifacts found during preliminary archaeological research in 2002 suggested that the maison shown in the Spanish 1794 survey map was somewhere in the vicinity of Grids 1-4 [Figure Intro 9 and Figure Intro 2]. There was little indication of cultural material in Grids 5-12. A large-scale excavation program was initiated in 2005 with the digging of a long slot trench (A) across Grids 1 and 2, punctuated by a few additional units (B) on a line perpendicular to the trench. [Figure Intro 10] The units produced a wealth of domestic refuse dating to the Coincoin occupation (1786-1820), as well as evidence of possible earthen architectural features, post holes, and a large trash pit [Figure Intro 11].

Ready to begin excavations on a larger scale, NSU and UCL partnered with NCPTT to showcase the preservation and research potential of combining geophysics, GIS, and GPS technologies.

Figure Intro 4

Figure Intro 4

Prospection in Depth 2007 Participants and Instructors.
(Photo by NCPTT)

Figure Intro 5

Figure Intro 5

Instructor Bryan Haley Discusses Radar Results with Research Crew (left to right: Fran Ritchie, Bryan Haley, Julia Tubman, Jennifer Booth, Katie Derrett, and Anna Mabrey)
(Photo by NCPTT)

Figure Intro 6

Figure Intro 6

1794 Spanish Property Map Showing the “Maison de Marie-Thérèse, negresse libre”
(NSU, Watson Memorial Library, Cammie Henry Research Center, Map Collection, Number 120)

Figure Intro 7

Figure Intro 7

Marie-Thérèse Coincoin Lineage.
(Adapted from Mills 1977:74-76)

Figure Intro 8

Figure Intro 8

Approximate Plantation and State-Designated Archaeological Site Boundaries
(David W. Morgan and Tommy Hailey)

Figure Intro 9

Figure Intro 9

Suite of Artifacts Recovered from the Vicinity of Geophysical Survey Grids 1-4
(David W. Morgan)

Figure Intro 10

Figure Intro 10

Geophysics Survey Grids 1-12 from 2006 and 2007, Showing Trench A and B Units
(NCPTT)

Figure Intro 11

Figure Intro 11

David W. Morgan Inspects Bone and Pottery Recovered from a late 1700s to early 1800s Trash Pit on Coincoin’s Plantation.
(Kevin C. MacDonald)

Funding for the research project from 2002-2007 was generously provided by the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, the Cane River National Heritage Area, the National Park Service’s Delta Initiative, and the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.

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