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Archaeological Survey Design, Units of Observation, and the Characterization of Regional Variability

  • Alan P. Sullivan III (a1), Philip B. Mink II (a2) and Patrick M. Uphus (a3)

Abstract

It is generally presumed that intensive survey yields reliable representations of regional archaeological variability. We evaluate this assumption with an analysis of the results of two intensive surveys of the same terrain in the Upper Basin, a heavily forested upland ecosystem located south of Grand Canyon National Park in Kaibab National Forest, northern Arizona. By comparing differences between the results of site-based surveys with those of mapping-unit-based surveys, we demonstrate that units of observation have a profound effect on how archaeological landscapes and their variability are characterized and interpreted. In addition, results of four analyses of survey data show that the archaeological resource inventories created by the application of these two different units of observation cannot be reconciled. We suggest that because some units of observation may be more appropriate for certain problems and for different kinds of surface and near-surface archaeological records, additional studies of the effects of units of observation on characterizing the archaeological content of the same terrain should become a research priority in survey archaeology. Without such studies, the identification of archaeologically sensitive areas, particularly those that necessitate active management and vigilant protection on public lands, will be underdetermined, thereby placing those heritage properties at risk.

Résumé

Generalmente se presume que la prospección intensiva provee representaciones confiables de la variabilidad arqueológica regional. Nosotros evaluamos esta presunción con un análisis de los resultados the dos prospecciones intensivas del mismo terreno en la Alta Cuenca, un ecosistema de bosque localizado al sur del Parque Nacional del Gran Cañon, en el Bosque Nacional Kaibab de Arizona septentrional. Una comparación de las diferencias entre resultados de las prospecciones de sitio con aquéllas de unidades cartográficas demuestra que las unidades de observacion tienen un effecto profundo en la manera de caracterizar e interpretar variabilidad en los paisajes arqueológicos. Además, los resultados de cuatro análisis de datos de prospección demuestran que los inventarios de recursos arqueológicos creados con la aplicación de estas dos differentes unidades de observación no son comparables. Debido a que las unidades de observación deben elegirse de acuerdo con el tipo de registro de superficie, sugerimos que los estudios de effectos de tipos de prospección son de prioridad. Sin estos estudios, la identificación de areas arqueológicamente sensitivas, en particular las que necesitan vigilancia y manejo activo en áreas públicas, será expuesta al riesgo de perjudicar el patrimonio cultural.

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Archaeological Survey Design, Units of Observation, and the Characterization of Regional Variability

  • Alan P. Sullivan III (a1), Philip B. Mink II (a2) and Patrick M. Uphus (a3)

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