The Contribution of Drowned Landscapes to Understanding Past Peoples

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

Archaeology relies on the interpretation of landscapes to place sites, cultural features, and artifacts in their appropriate contexts. Understanding these contexts is difficult when environmental and climatic changes hide drowned landscapes from view. Conversely, underwater environments can provide valuable benefits such as increased organic preservation, clear stratigraphy, limited post-depositional alterations, and enhanced chronological control. This symposium explores the challenges archaeologists face when working on drowned landscapes as well as the range of new information these rich environments have provided. Papers presenting methodology and results for underwater landscape surveys, site testing and exploration, and underwater excavation of terrestrial sites demonstrate the growing importance of this area of research. With sites ranging across human history, explorations of underwater landscapes and drowned terrestrial sites are invaluable for current and future archaeological research.

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  • Documents (9)

  • Giant Sloths, Ancient Maya Jars, and the Cave of the Black Mirror: Underwater Cenote Research at the Cara Blanca Pools, Belize (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew J Kinkella.

    This research focuses on ancient Maya settlement at the Cara Blanca Pools, a string of 25 freshwater cenotes and lakes located in west-central Belize.  Pool 1 has been the most extensively explored, with a depth of 235 feet and a geological makeup where the pool extends deep underneath the surrounding cliffs, becoming an underwater cave.  The underwater cave component is named "Actun Ek Nen," which translates to "Black Mirror Cave" in the Mayan language.  Our underwater exploration, methodology,...

  • Hoyo Negro: The Formation and Transformation of a Submerged Late Pleistocene Cave Site in Quintana Roo, Mexico (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dominique Rissolo. James C. Chatters. Alberto E Nava Blank. Eduard Reinhardt. Patricia Beddows. Shawn Kovacs. Shawn Collins. Pilar Luna Erreguerena.

    Exploration of the submerged cave systems of Quintana Roo, Mexico, has afforded researchers access to uniquely preserved Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene deposits that can reveal a wealth of information about the human ecology of the Yucatan Peninsula at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. The interdisciplinary Hoyo Negro Project aims to identify and reconstruct the processes that have formed and transformed the site over millennia. In addition to ongoing studies of the human skeleton from...

  • A Mammoth Question: Can We Count the First Floridians Among the First Americans? (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Morgan F. Smith.

    In 1973, a small team of archaeologists and students made a startling announcement concerning the Guest Mammoth site, in Central Florida. Underwater excavations on the site in the Silver River yielded the remains of three Columbian Mammoths in direct association with lithic artifacts. Two of the bones bore cutmarks. The prevailing Clovis-first paradigm, inaccurate radiocarbon dates obtained from unpurified mammoth bone collagen, and the novelty of an underwater prehistoric site all led to...

  • Manasota Key Offshore: A Prehistoric Cemetery in the Gulf of Mexico (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ryan M Duggins. Franklin H Price. Melissa R. Price. Ivor R Mollema. Neil N Puckett.

    The likelihood for the existence of prehistoric sites on drowned landscapes of the continental shelf has been discussed for decades. However, the potentially devastating effects of marine transgression have sparked a debate about the types and characteristics of prehistoric sites that archaeologists expect to find offshore.  The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research recently identified a prehistoric cemetery located in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Investigations at the Manasota...

  • Paleoenvironmental Data From Blackwater Bay, Santa Rosa County, Florida (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Newton.

         Environmental data collected near prehistoric archaeological sites along the Blackwater River and Bay Complex, Santa Rosa County Florida were used to create a paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Presented here are the methods employed, which include: remote sensing, vibracoring, the analysis of radon isotope tracers using a RAD7 detecting unit, and particle size distribution analysis (PSA) using a Malvern Mastersizer 3000.      Identifying and documenting submarine groundwater discharge...

  • State of the Art: Reconstructing paleolandscapes for maritime CRM projects (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael K Faught.

    Advancements in sound underwater remote sensing have resulted in effective ways to study the ocean bottom, reconstruct paleolandscape settings, and find pre-contact archaeological sites.  The inventory of submerged sites known to date ranges from 3 to 13 kya.  These sites are located in, and theorized to exist from nearshore to mid-shelf settings, but the potential for pre-contact sites goes all the way out to the continental shelf break, a fact confirmed by recent findings of several pre-Clovis...

  • Submerged Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene Sites in the Aucilla River Basin, Florida: What Can They Tell Us About Early Cultures We Could Not Learn Elsewhere? (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jessi Halligan.

    Many projectile points of late Paleoindian and early Archaic styles have been recovered from underwater contexts in the Aucilla Basin. A large percentage of these are unprovenienced surface finds, but these artifacts have also been found in association with soils currently submerged more than 4 meters underwater. Dates from these soils span the Younger Dryas at Page-Ladson and Sloth Hole, while other sites have proven complex to date but provide excellent environmental information....

  • The Trouble With The Curve: Reassessing The Gulf of Mexico Sea-Level Rise Model (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Shawn Joy.

    During last glacial episode, a massive amount of water was locked within ice sheets, resulting in a reduction in global sea-levels by 134 meters. The reintroduction of freshwater into the oceans radically changed global sea-levels and littoral landscapes. Over the last 20,000 years, approximately 15-20 million km2 of landscape has been submerged worldwide. Sea-level rise explains the rarity of glacial period coastal archaeological sites. Understanding Florida’s Paleoindians’ interactions with...

  • Underwater in the High Desert: Exploring Site Presence and Preservation on Drowned and Buried Lake Features (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Neil N Puckett.

    Walker Lake, NV, a high desert, perennial lake in the western Great Basin, has been subject to naturally changing water levels for over 15,000 years. Ranging in size from the southernmost branch of Pleistocene Lake Lahontan to a small alkali wetland, Walker Lake provided varying landscapes for people to use and live around through time. Fieldwork during summer 2017 investigated drowned river channels and beach features for depositional history, site presence, and site preservation. Submerged...