Abstract

Electromagnetic (EM) surveys have been used at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in southwestern Illinois to locate and define a number of buried archaeological features. Two instruments, Geonics EM31-D and EM38 conductivity meters, were employed to locate portions of a wooden stockade known as the Central Palisade; delineate a number of leveled earthen mounds; and explore a broad, flat area in the central portion of the site known as the Grand Plaza.EM surveys, together with limited excavation, provide a cost effective and nondestructive means of exploring a site as large and complex as Cahokia. Archaeological excavations confirmed that EM surveys were able to locate the Central Palisade, and more importantly, that they provided information on anthropogenically modified terrain within the Grand Plaza. The EM survey documented buried ridge and swale topography and borrow pits within this area. This evidence of landscape modification challenges previous conceptions about the extent of earthmoving at this important Mississippian center and suggests a promising area of application for EM surveys in archaeology.

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