Geoarchaeology


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Understanding archaeological sites and their settings

Our outstanding team of geoarchaeologists plays an integral role in nearly every one of our projects. They have been honored for their innovative studies by the Society for California Archaeology and the California Preservation Foundation.

Regulatory agencies and researchers need to identify buried archaeological sites, or the potential for such sites, early in the environmental compliance process to prevent costly construction delays. Geological work can also be applied to regional sensitivity studies for buried sites, paleoenvironment, site structure and formation, and assessments of integrity.

What we have accomplished:

  • Regional geoarchaeological overviews examine the effects of landform evolution on the visibility of the archaeological record to establish the potential for buried sites. We have mapped about 40% of California, and we’re still mapping!
  • We conduct project-specific, three-dimensional buried site sensitivity assessments by reviewing relevant geologic, soil, geotechnical, and archaeological data to establish a range for buried sites potential (from none to very high).
  • We frequently document site structure to assess site integrity and to identify undisturbed or intact archaeological deposits to be targeted by excavation crews.
  • We can provide a comprehensive site history through identification of both natural and cultural site formation processes.
  • We conduct paleoenvironmental research which has contributed to a growing body of knowledge of climate change and landscape evolution during human occupation.

How we search for and manage buried sites:

  • Within highly sensitive areas, we conduct subsurface geoarchaeological investigations in advance of ground-disturbing activities.
  • In most situations, backhoe trenching is the most effective way to identify sites.
  • In situations where backhoe trenching is not possible (e.g., in urban areas), or the site depth exceeds the range of mechanical excavation, we conduct hydraulic continuous core sampling to identify sites.
  • If a site is identified prior to construction and cannot be avoided, it can be mitigated without impacting critical-path schedules.
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