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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(12), 1007;

Frozen: The Potential and Pitfalls of Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology in the Alaskan Arctic

Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory, Department of Classics and Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
U.S. National Park Service, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA
Histoire de l'Art et Archéologie, Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne University, Paris 75005, France
Department of Anthropology and Circumpolar Laboratory, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
U.S. National Park Service, Alaska Regional Office, Anchorage, AK 99501, USA
Department of Anthropology, University at Albany, Albany, NY 12222, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Kenneth L. Kvamme, Henrique Lorenzo and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 28 September 2016 / Revised: 26 November 2016 / Accepted: 1 December 2016 / Published: 9 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaeological Prospecting and Remote Sensing)
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Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) offers many advantages for assessing archaeological potential in frozen and partially frozen contexts in high latitude and alpine regions. These settings pose several challenges for GPR, including extreme velocity changes at the interface of frozen and active layers, cryogenic patterns resulting in anomalies that can easily be mistaken for cultural features, and the difficulty in accessing sites and deploying equipment in remote settings. In this study we discuss some of these challenges while highlighting the potential for this method by describing recent successful investigations with GPR in the region. We draw on cases from Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The sites required small aircraft accessibility with light equipment loads and minimal personnel. The substrates we investigate include coastal saturated active layer over permafrost, interior well-drained active layer over permafrost, a frozen thermo-karst lake, and an alpine ice patch. These examples demonstrate that GPR is effective at mapping semi-subterranean house remains in several contexts, including houses with no surface manifestation. GPR is also shown to be effective at mapping anomalies from the skeletal remains of a late Pleistocene mammoth frozen in ice. The potential for using GPR in ice and snow patch archaeology, an area of increasing interest with global environmental change exposing new material each year, is also demonstrated. View Full-Text
Keywords: ground-penetrating radar; Alaska; Arctic; permafrost; mammoth; Bering Land Bridge ground-penetrating radar; Alaska; Arctic; permafrost; mammoth; Bering Land Bridge

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Urban, T.M.; Rasic, J.T.; Alix, C.; Anderson, D.D.; Manning, S.W.; Mason, O.K.; Tremayne, A.H.; Wolff, C.B. Frozen: The Potential and Pitfalls of Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology in the Alaskan Arctic. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 1007.

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