Electromagnetic induction research at Ocmulgee reported

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Bigman 2012 Ocmulgee Arch Prosp Fig2

Figure 2 from Bigman’s article. Original caption: “Photograph of the Funeral Mound (looking north). This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/arp.” Find the article and this figure online here.

In a recent article, Dan Bigman of the University of Georgia describes using electromagnetic (EM) induction techniques to investigate two areas adjacent to the Funeral Mound at Ocmulgee National Monument, near Macon. Previous research has discovered human remains dating to the Mississippian (ca. AD 900–1100) and early historic Creek periods (ca. AD 1680–1720) in the mound. Therefore, Bigman’s investigations examined subsurface remains the land adjacent to the mound, to amplify our understanding of a prehistoric cemetery without disturbing any remains.

Bigman 2012 Ocmulgee Arch Prosp Fig7

Figure 7 from Bigman’s article. Original caption: “Digitized map with transcribed interpretations of conductivity data from survey block 1 and survey block 2.” The double dotted lines delineate a zone of disturbance now occupied by a railroad grade and right-of-way.

Bigman reports that his conductivity survey, which focused on depths up to 2 meters, showed zones of burials extending both north and south of the mound. This non-invasive methods was quite effective, notes Bigman (page 38):

Electromagnetic induction was an effective tool for locating and identifying pre-historic and historic Native American burials at Ocmulgee National Monument and the results have comparative value for similar contexts around the world. Over 60 possible burials were identified around the Funeral Mound. The limits of the Funeral Mound cemetery were discovered; it extends to the north of the mound and additional burials appear to the southeast.

Archaeological resources are non-renewable. Modern archaeologists seek to learn about buried evidence of the past without disturbing it, if the resources can be left in place. At this National Monument, the remains are protected from disturbance, and non-invasive research techniques, like the EM induction that Bigman used, are a preferred choice.

This research also gives park managers a better idea of how to care for the archaeological resources at Ocmulgee National Monument. Visit the park yourself and think about what is under your feet as you roam the area near the Funeral Mound. The park is open daily from 9AM to 5PM except Christmas and New Year’s Day. There are no entry fees; entrance is free.

Bigman, Dan. 2012. The Use of Electromagnetic Induction in Locating Graves and Mapping Cemeteries: an Example from Native North America. Archaeological Prospection 19:31–39. [Online for free here.]
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