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SPARC-ing Geospatial Archaeological Research

SPARC-ing Geospatial Archaeological Research

The National Science Foundation has renewed its funding for the Spatial Archaeometry Research Collaborations (SPARC) Program, an initiative at the University of Arkansas that acts as a national hub for geospatial research in archaeology.

The $277,264 grant allows the SPARC Program to continue to provide funding for data collection in the field and lab analysis, along with research expertise for archaeological research projects that use 3-D measurement, geospatial analysis and remote-sensing technologies.

CAST researcher Katie Simon conducts a ground-penetrating radar survey among the architectural ruins of the palace complex at San Souci in Haiti, in a SPARC-funded collaboration with Cameron Monroe of the University of California, Santa Cruz. | Courtesy Christine Markussen.

CAST researcher Katie Simon conducts a ground-penetrating radar survey among the architectural ruins of the palace complex at San Souci, Haiti, as part of a SPARC-funded collaboration with Cameron Monroe of the University of California, Santa Cruz. | Courtesy Christine Markussen

The SPARC Program helps researchers learn about spatial archaeometry, which measures properties of archaeological materials at all scales, including objects, sites and landscapes. The spatial properties of the measurements are central to their analysis and interpretation.

The program was created by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies and Archaeo-Imaging Laboratory with a $250,000 grant from NSF in 2013.

Since SPARC launched, CAST researchers have collaborated on more than 15 projects, including working with the City of Boston Archaeology Program to scan fingerprints on the unglazed ceramic potsherds found at colonial-era kiln and tavern sites and with the University of California, Berkeley, on magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar surveys to map the ancient Edomite complex in Busayra, Jordan.

Magnetometry is the technique of measuring and mapping patterns of magnetism in the soil. Ancient activity leaves magnetic traces that show up when detected with the right equipment.

Katie Simon conducts a magnetometry survey at the now buried city of Busayra, Jordan. The project is a collaboration with Ben Porter of the University of California, Berkeley. | Courtesy Christine Markussen

Katie Simon conducts a magnetometry survey at the now buried city of Busayra, Jordan. The project is a collaboration with Ben Porter of the University of California, Berkeley. | Courtesy Christine Markussen

“We attract a wide variety of collaborators and projects because the things archaeologists study, from artifacts to sites to landscapes, almost always have a spatial component and for many decades space has been viewed as one of the central dimensions of archaeological study,” said SPARC Executive Director Rachel Opitz. “The capabilities of geospatial technologies to enhance the discovery and interpretation of these things not only offers new data, but creates entirely novel means of engaging with the archaeological record.”

A full list and complete descriptions of the recent awards can be found at the SPARC website.

About The Author

Chris Branam writes about research and economic development at the University of Arkansas. His beats include the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of History.

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