Mapping Town Formation: Precision, Accuracy, and Memory

Author(s): April Beisaw; James Gibb

Year: 2013


The archaeology of town formation is often guided by the use of historic maps; regional maps narrow down the location of lost towns, and local maps match archaeological finds to documented structures. The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project used both regional and local maps to interpret one 60-acre town site, with mixed results. Are the Native American deposits the remnants of Captain John Smith's Potopaco? Do the identified foundations correspond to the buildings on historic maps? Precision field mapping and spatial analyses of recovered artifacts needed to consider two biasing factors: 1) site formation processes (abandonment of dilapidated structures and clean-up of their debris), and 2) the imprecise and inaccurate methods of those who constructed historic maps (they were not meant to be accurate representations of long gone places). Mapping town formation, therefore, requires appreciation for and acceptance of the limitations of maps for recalling the past as it was. 

Cite this Record

Mapping Town Formation: Precision, Accuracy, and Memory. April Beisaw, James Gibb. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428538)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 472