Prehistoric Site Discovery and Paleo Landscape Modeling on the Outer Continental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico, United States of America
Abstract by Charles E. Pearson
Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden Sydney, Virginia
Coastal Environments, Inc., Baton Rouge, Louisiana
In 1984, over a quarter of a century ago, Coastal Environments, Inc. undertook a study designed to locate submerged prehistoric archaeological deposits on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico. This early effort at submerged archaeological site discovery relied on an innovative research strategy and a series of technological approaches that have become standard in this field of study. The region of interest was the filled stream valley of the Sabine River offshore of Louisiana and Texas. Research involved the collection and synthesis of a large amount of high-resolution seismic data and core records in order to reconstruct the pre-submergence landscape of the region. Models of prehistoric site distributions derived from onshore analogs were extended to the offshore landscape to identify now-submerged landforms with a high likelihood of containing preserved cultural remains. Climate change, reflected principally in sea level change, was incorporated into the predictive model of site distribution and preserved landform occurrence in the offshore area of interest. Over 70 vibracores were used to collect sediment samples from several identified high-probability landforms. Analyses indicated the existence of cultural deposits at one of the sample landforms located approximately 16 km offshore. These materials dated to approximately 8,800 BP.