Hidden Beneath the Asphalt: Urban Archaeology in Parking Lots

Author(s): Emily Swain

Year: 2018


Historic maps provide tangible visual evidence of how cities evolve over time. Buildings are erected and demolished, roads are constructed, and streams are diverted or filled. To an untrained eye, the built environment of a typical city block may look like an unlikely place to find archaeological remains but to an archaeologist it is a time capsule waiting to be opened. To this end, urban archaeology often requires peeking beneath parking lots, which often provide temporary protection to buried resources until the land is slated for development. The changing dynamics of an evolving city may mean that beneath the parking lot archaeological resources are buried beneath extensive fill deposits. Conversely, they may have been destroyed by extensive grading. Consulting historic maps, conducting elevation change analyses, and conducting geophysical testing can provide an idea of what is buried below, but ultimately excavation is required to determine what survives. This paper will discuss several urban archaeological sites found beneath parking lots in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Cite this Record

Hidden Beneath the Asphalt: Urban Archaeology in Parking Lots. Emily Swain. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444743)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21408