Archaeological sites have cultural and scientific value, are widely distributed across the landscape, and can represent obstacles to training and infrastructure maintenance on Department of Defense (DoD) installations. Federal laws and DoD regulations require installations to identify sites, evaluate their eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and either protect eligible and unevaluated sites or mitigate adverse effects caused by training and other Federal undertakings. Much of this work is based on manual labor by field and laboratory technicians. The current approach to compliance with these requirements is expensive, time-consuming, and a potential source of conflict with Native Americans and other stakeholders. 

The objectives of this project were to: (1) introduce the integrated multi-sensor approach for detecting and characterizing subsurface deposits at archaeological sites; (2) create ArchaeoFusion, a new user-friendly software that serves as the approach’s technology infusion tool; and (3) demonstrate and validate the cost and performance benefits of the approach and ArchaeoFusion to DoD geophysical users, Federal, state, and tribal historic preservation offices, resource managers, and other cultural resource management (CRM) practitioners. Use of the integrated multi-sensor approach will reduce costs and invasiveness and increase the reliability of information about subsurface deposits.

Technology Description

The integrated multi-sensor approach is a method for detecting and characterizing the nature of subsurface archaeological deposits. Information about such deposits is essential for determining a site’s NRHP eligibility and mitigating sites that represent serious obstacles to military undertakings in a cost-effective, responsible manner. The approach is based on the integration (fusion) of data collected using a suite of near-surface sensor types. This project developed ArchaeoFusion, a software tool that when used in conjunction with one or more sensors enables individuals with modest technical expertise and experience to achieve all of the data collection, processing, integration, and interpretation tasks necessary to use the integrated multi-sensor approach. 

The basis for the integrated multi-sensor approach is the finding in Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) project RC-1263 that multiple sensors, when properly processed and integrated, can (1) provide information about subsurface deposits that enhance the reliability and reduce the cost and invasiveness of investigations needed to characterize the nature and condition of archaeological subsurface deposits and (2) facilitate evaluating site NRHP eligibility status. SERDP Project RC-1263 identified many effective techniques for data integration, but also found that the integrated multi-sensor approach had labor and technical expertise requirements that precluded implementation by CRM programs at DoD installations.

Demonstration Results

This project’s field component was conducted in conjunction with the National Park Service’s 2009 introductory course in remote sensing held at Presidio Los Adaes, the project demonstration site. Located in west-central Louisiana, Los Adaes is a State Historic Site that includes the well-preserved subsurface remains of an 18th century Spanish military outpost. All aspects of geophysical collection were demonstrated using five sensor types. This project also demonstrated and quantified the extent to which ArchaeoFusion provides all of the data processing, integration, and interpretation capabilities required by novice and expert users to achieve the benefits of the integrated multi-sensor approach. Eight performance objectives were developed to assess ArchaeoFusion’s benefits in terms of the number of anomalies detected; effectiveness of its “wizards” (processing guidance for novice users); advantages over commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software; time required for processing data and recording metadata, using diverse processing and integration techniques with no loss of data resolution; and providing a basis for correctly assigning anomalies to archaeological feature categories. 

The project collected information from 14 evaluators through an online survey. Survey respondents rated their level of agreement or disagreement with eight different statements that closely mirrored the original performance objectives. The rate of agreement ranged from 46 to 100%, with an average of 80%. Results strongly support the integrated multi-sensor approach and the use of ArchaeoFusion as the technology infusion tool.

Implementation Issues

Costs associated with implementation of the approach include purchase of ArchaeoFusion (free to DoD users); supplemental graphic software (less than $2,000); up to five sensors (at approximately $20,000 each); and labor, tuition, and travel associated with training and geophysical survey. Initial implementation costs can be offset relatively quickly by savings associated with using the integrated multi-sensor approach to evaluate several relatively complex sites or by mitigating a single relatively complex site. 

Installations considering adoption of this strategy should first ensure that they have a considerable number of relatively complex sites that are amenable to geophysical survey. These sites should likely include discrete features, whose NRHP status needs to be evaluated, and that represent serious obstacles to the mission and therefore need to be properly removed (mitigated). Future reductions in funds available to manage cultural resources on DoD installations may make it more cost-effective for installations to require private sector firms who conduct their site evaluations to employ the integrated multi-sensor approach. This would transfer start-up costs to the private firms but would still allow DoD to realize the benefits that accompany use of the approach. 

The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) will make ArchaeoFusion available at no cost to DoD users for 5 years and provide online support in the use of ArchaeoFusion. Periodic updates and expansions in ArchaeoFusion’s capabilities are planned and will be announced on the CAST web site (http://www.cast.uark.edu/home/research/geophysics/archaeofusion.html).