Poverty Point recently played host to a few dedicated geophysicists who make the trip down to Louisiana, on their own time, to look below the surface of the site. They use something called a resistance cart that gets pulled back and forth, over and over and over, across a grid that was previously laid out. It “measures variation in the soil’s ability to carry current and can vary with things like soil moisture, composition (abundance of ions) and soil compactness.” [Thanks to Dr. Diana Greenlee for the explanation.]
They pull it to the end of a row, unhook it, turn it around then go the other way. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
It looks low tech but the data that it gives them is priceless. They are able to see features under the ground … blobs and circles that mean something to their trained eyes and educated brains. They just look really cool to me. But the features tell them where they might want to excavate next … what is that circle? What made that blob?
They can see the ridges that circle the site and the aisles that crisscross them even though they are barely visible topside (and sometimes not visible at all). They find features in one part of the site that they can’t find in others. They discover subtle clues that, to me, seem to beg for someone to grab a shovel and investigate.
But their funding is limited and their questions sometimes sit festering for years until they find the money to try and answer them. Then, usually, they unearth a few amazing answers and another long list of questions. They are patient and dedicated people.
Thanks to Diana Greenlee, Lewis Somers, Mike Hargrave and George Riser for sharing their work, and their lunch, with me.
Essential tools of the archaeological trade.