The Econfina Paleochannel Sites: Detecting and locating submerged coastally adapted cultural landscapes in Apalachee Bay, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, U.S.A.

Author: Nathan Hale

Hale, Nathan, 2023 The Econfina Paleochannel Sites: Detecting and locating submerged coastally adapted cultural landscapes in Apalachee Bay, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, U.S.A., Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This study underscores the significant contribution of Inverse Detection Analysis (IDA) and scientific SCUBA surveys to the field of submerged archaeological sites, particularly within the Apalachee Bay area. The efficacy of the IDA method in accurately predicting the location of sediment-starved cultural sites was established with the successful detection and verification of several archaeological sites dating from the terminal Pleistocene to the Late Holocene. In doing so, a crucial understanding of these sites' characteristics, purpose, and variable occupation was unveiled. The application of scientific SCUBA surveys enabled a comprehensive analysis of these sites, leading to contextual variability between the sites despite the geographical similarity. Integrating these methodologies resulted in a more refined and accurate understanding of ancient cultures' relationships and adaptation to their environments. IDA is emerging as an improved method over conventional offshore diving methodologies. Its high-resolution landform identification significantly enhances the object classification capability, making it a valuable tool for future submerged cultural landscape exploration and anthropological research. The findings of this study endorse the broader application of IDA beyond the scope of the Apalachee Bay area, pointing to its potential to transform the exploration and analysis of submerged cultural landscapes, perhaps globally. As such, this aligns seamlessly with anthropological research endeavors to better comprehend humanity's historical trajectory and advocate for its preservation. The role played by technological advancements like IDA in archaeology is now paramount; its importance is undeniable in the quest to grapple with the intricacies of historical landscapes submerged in the depths of time. The utilization of Inverse Detection Analysis (IDA) and scientific SCUBA surveys in examining submerged archaeological sites in the Apalachee Bay area, Gulf of Mexico, has yielded insights into past human activities and occupancies. The differential functions observed between the high-activity Newton McGann and Econfina Channel sites, as compared to the limited findings at the Ochlocknee Shoals, underscore the complexity of ancient cultures and their nuanced adaptation strategies to similar geographical contexts. The high-resolution landform identification potential of IDA and the meticulous human touch of SCUBA surveys have provided a significant advancement over traditional offshore diving methodologies, particularly in locating historic shipwrecks thus far. The results obtained here hold not only local but global implications for the field of maritime archaeology in shallow water sediment-starved environments. They demonstrate how such technological advancements enable efficient, minimally invasive, accurate, and potentially cost-effective investigation of submerged archaeological sites, thereby contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.

Keywords: Submerged paleolandscapes, maritime cultural landscapes, machine learning, bathymetric LiDAR, Inverse Detection Analysis, geomorphological, and cultural adaptations.

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2023
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Jonathan Benjamin