Travis Rael

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Earth System Science

Committee Chair

Robert Griffin

Committee Member

Thomas L. Sever

Committee Member

Keith Little


Remote sensing, Archaeology--Remote sensing, Mounds--Ala.bama--Lawrence County, Excavations (Archaeology)--Ala.bama--Lawrence County


A common goal of many archaeological studies is to locate anthropogenic features, which provide occupational and chronological information. Anomalies detected in ground-based geophysical remote sensing data assist in locating such features and provide guidance for placement of excavations. Research conducted on a large platform mound located in northwest Alabama utilized a quantitative method for detecting and interpreting anomalies in gradiometer data collected on the structure’s summit. Results from systematical ground truthing and subsequent excavations of several of the anomalies suggest that this method provides an effective approach for locating areas containing significant subsurface archaeological deposits within the mound. Soil core tests conducted to depths ranging from 120 to 230 centimeters below the surface at 20 randomly sampled anomalies identified eight locations containing materials indicative of feature fill such as bone, fired clay, ash, sand layers, carbonized plant remains, and soil color and texture changes. An excavation unit placed over a core-tested anomaly yielding bone fragments revealed an historic grave shaft. Another excavation unit positioned atan anomaly location producing fired clay and a layer of sand in the core test exposed a Middle Woodland burial pit containing at least one individual interred with a large copper gorget. Two radiocarbon essays generated from charred nutshell collected from beneath the gorget and from pit fill produced overlapping Middle Woodland dates. Consequently, this method allowed researchers to investigate significant features that revealed important information regarding prehistoric and historic activities conducted on the mound summit.



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