Date of Award

8-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Second Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Third Advisor

David B. Landon

Abstract

Yards surrounding historical homesteads are the liminal space between private houses and public space, and contain artifactural and structural remains that help us understand how the residents interfaced with the world. Comparing different yards means collecting reliable evidence, and what is missing is just as important as what is found. Excavations can rely on randomly placed 50-cm shovel test pits to locate features, but this can miss important features. Shallow geophysics, in particular ground-penetrating radar (GPR), can be used to identify features and reliably and efficiently collect evidence.

GPR is becoming more integrated into archaeological investigations due to the potential to quickly and nondestructively identify archaeological features and to recent advancements in processing software that make these methods more user-friendly. The most efficacious GPR surveys must take into consideration what is expected to be below the surface, what features look like in GPR outputs, the best methods for detecting features, and the limitations of GPR surveys. Man-made landscape features are expected to have existed within yard spaces, and the alteration of these features shows how the domestic economy of the residence changed through time. This study creates an inventory of these features. By producing a standardized sampling method for GPR in yard spaces, archaeologists can quickly map subsurface features and carry out broad comparisons between yards.

To determine the most effective sampling method, several GPR surveys were conducted at the 18th-century Durant-Kenrick House in Newton, Massachusetts, using varied line spacing, line direction, and bin size. Examples of the GPR signatures of features, obtained using GPR-Slice software, from the Durant-Kenrick House and similar sites were analyzed. The efficacy of each method was determined based on the number of features distinguished, clarity of the results, and the time involved. The survey at Newton showed that ground surface conditions are extremely important when using GPR. Furthermore, GPR and archaeological excavations together provide the most complete interpretation because GPR has the ability to detect large-scale features that might be missed with test units, while excavation provides more detailed information, finds small-scale objects, and can be used to test false negatives seen in GPR surveys.

Comments

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