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  Program 41 Technology
      Although archaeologists have always relied on technology to some degree, today the equipment we frequently use would seem like something out of a science fiction movie to archaeologists half a century ago.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Now we have tools that give us a pretty good idea of what might lie beneath potential archaeological sites before we start digging.

Archaeology is a destructive science and once an area is excavated it is essentially gone for good. That’s why it is so important that we record everything exactly as we found it, so we can later recreate the site for analysis.

Tools and devices like geographic information system or G-I-S, ground penetrating radar, geoprobing, and 3-D laser scanning technology empower us to practice archaeology in a way that is less disturbing and helps to preserve sites while we learn from them. 

After all, the true value of any archaeological site… goes beyond the mere materials we find…to the information we can gather from it.

  Program42 GPR: Ground Penetrating Radar
      Before excavating any archaeological site, it is important that we know where to look, without needlessly disturbing the ground. That’s why archaeologists in the 21st century regularly rely on a device invented for space exploration.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Modern ground penetrating radar or GPR consists of an antenna, laptop, and a distance measuring device. The three components of this machine can be attached to a cart with wheels and pushed along the ground just like a lawn mower.

As this device is systematically rolled over a site, the radar beam bounces off buried features within nanoseconds, and quickly produces an underground map.  This map enables archaeologists to pinpoint their excavations, thereby eliminating tedious and destructive exploratory digging.

Although not as detailed as an MRI, ground-penetrating radar can reveal a lot!  For example, it can tell us the general location of ancient hearths. It can also detect architectural features like foundations, and even identify the locations of burials.

  Program 43 Geoprobing
      Shovels, screens and trowels will always have their place in an archaeologist’s toolbox, but modern devices such as the geoprobe are allowing us to obtain more data from the dirt faster than ever before.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense and this is Unearthing Florida…

A geoprobe, or coring device, is a powerful machine that drives a hollow steel core-- lined with PVC pipe-- into the ground to take soil samples. After the soil sample is retrieved, the steel core is withdrawn—revealing an almost flawless profile of the dirt within the clear plastic tube.

Archaeologists can study the soil to learn all sorts of things including the age of the site, environmental changes that might have occurred there and even what the site was actually used for.

In the summer of 2011archaeologists from Florida and Ohio used a geoprobe in their investigations at a Native American settlement located at the Crystal River Archaeological State Park in Citrus County.

They found shell throughout one of the large mounds they tested, which was surprising, since larger pre-historic mounds are usually constructed with soil, not shells.

  Program 44 GIS: Connecting Dots
      One of the techniques of archaeology is identifying patterns in the bits and pieces of artifacts that we recover.   By using Geographic Information System technology, we can now map and analyze sites in a flash.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

A good example of G-I-S is at the site of the 18th century Spanish colonial Presidio Santa Rosa, at the entrance of Pensacola Bay. Status-sensitive artifacts found in over a hundred little test units were input into a special computer program to look for patterns. Within minutes, it became clear that people of high and low status lived on opposite sides of the settlement.

We also used a magnetometer to look for buried metal artifacts, and that same computer mapping program revealed several circular concentrations of items, such a nails and spikes, we think are associated with individual houses.

By using high technology machines at the first stages of an archaeological investigation, we can find and connect “dots” we couldn’t even see before.  This means we can dig smarter, find out more, and get more bang for our bucks!

  Program 45 3-D Laser Scanner
      Equipped with laser scanners, GPS devices and computer software, archaeologists in today’s digital world can render accurate 3-D models of landscapes, architectural structures, and even artifacts like never before.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Archaeologists from the University of South Florida are leading the way in how to use 3-D laser scanning to better preserve and understand our cultural resources.

For example, Drs. Lori Collins and Travis Doering utilized this technology at historic sugar mill sites located across Northeast Florida.  Their work assisted park supervisors in determining the best plan to protect and repair the crumbling ruins.

Additionally, Collins and Doering used this technology to scan hundreds of artifacts and generate interactive computer models of them that can now be accessed and studied by researchers and students from all over the world.

Now such objects and sites can be studied in detail, virtually, with without having to handle them or even leave the office.

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