Traditional approaches to archaeological inventory survey and predictive archaeological modeling have been limited. They view the archaeological record as a two-dimensional (2- D) record of surface archaeological distributions and rarely account for the fact that buried archaeological sites exist and must be viewed three-dimensionally. As a consequence, traditional survey results and predictive models afford only an incomplete representation of real or predicted resource distributions.

This study addresses the ability to model and predict the distribution of archaeological resources on military and Department of Energy lands and addresses the potential of unique impacts (military operations) to adversely affect those resources. It is aimed at demonstrating (1) the effectiveness of a three-dimensional (3-D) computer simulation approach to predictive archaeological modeling and resource risk assessment and (2) that the approach is transferable to other installations where these resources are at risk from 3-D (subsurface) impacts.

Technical Approach

The approach develops a 3-D predictive model of archaeological site location based upon geomorphic process modeling of landscape evolution, detailed geomorphic sampling, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. The 3-D modeling builds on the Channel-Hillslope Integrated Landscape Development (CHILD) model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center – Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. The CHILD model output provides a quantitative geomorphic context for interpreting the space/time correlations among archaeological materials in the alluvial basin by simulating the processes of dispersal by erosion and burial by deposition. Interpretation and validation of simulation results are carried out using the empirical geomorphological data from extensive subsurface geoarchaeological testing (e.g., profile cutting, backhoeing, coring, etc.) previously carried out on the test drainage at Fort Riley, KS. This will result in the development of 3-D “archaeological sensitivity” maps that can then be compared with the existing 2-D predictive model of the same drainage for an evaluation of relative predictive accuracy and ultimate utility for land management purposes.


A 3-D approach using the known archaeological record, historical military training activities, and the CHILD model was developed. This integrated geomorphic modeling of archaeological site location and training impacts provides a predictive tool to identify the probability of locating buried resources and the degree to which these resource are at risk from military activities. The resulting 3-D model produced "archaeological sensitivity" maps, which were compared with a 2-D model of the same basin. The results indicate that the 2-D approach to predictive modeling is deficient for detecting buried archaeological sites and, in some cases, is even misleading at providing reliable probabilities of archaeological site potential for particular landforms and paleosols. This project was completed in FY00.


By simulating the process of erosion and deposition of sediments across a river catchment in time, the 3-D model approach provides a powerful tool for visualizing the dynamic nature of landforms. By calibrating the model to a specific reach of a valley using available information on the local hydrologic history and lithology, the model has the potential to reconstruct the spatial extent of archaeologically important sediment features along the valley and in between geoarchaeological cross sections. In this way, it can aid in the development of reliable 3-D archaeological sensitivity maps.

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