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Increasing the scale of inquiry: A GIS approach to archaeology, environment and landscape during the early Holocene in Central Massachusetts

Kathryn Curran, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The site predictive models employed by archaeologists in New England depend on three modern topographic and soil classification criteria to detect Native American cultural materials. What is problematic is the fact that this model is used to predict all Late Pleistocene (12,900-10,000 BP) and early Holocene (10,000-4,000 BP) archaeological sites, with no adjustments to account for variability in site function or site age. In this study, I use the computer program ArcGIS to analyze paleoenvironmental, geological and archaeological data layers in an effort to improve site predictive models in the region. In theory, utilizing paleoenvironmental variables in place of their modern counterparts should increase the accuracy of such models. The reality is that the creation and conversion of data to digital format in the study area proved so challenging that it ultimately derailed the model building process. If improvements to existing predictive models is desired, archaeologists must work together to create a cultural resources database that is compatible between individual US States. Similarly, predictive models in New England need to be consistently reevaluated and updated to be more relevant to the discipline as a whole. One advantage of accumulating archaeological site data in the study area was in identification of potential Native American occupation patterns during the Paleo-Indian (12,900-10,000 BP), Early Archaic (10,000-8,000 BP), and Middle Archaic (8,000-5,000 BP) periods. While not based on paleoenvironmental attributes, these settlement patterns might one day be reworked into comprehensive site predictive models, after data compatibility problems are addressed.^

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Curran, Kathryn, "Increasing the scale of inquiry: A GIS approach to archaeology, environment and landscape during the early Holocene in Central Massachusetts" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3397694.