Archaeological Site Potential in the Ottawa Region

An Exercise



You're a developer, a forester, an archaeologist planning a site survey. Where would you be most likely to find an archaeological site? In the case of a developer or forester, you want to know this information in order to avoid impacting the resource or to factor in the cost for site mitigation. If you're an archaeologist, you might be interested in site distribution patterns that could explain changing settlement strategies or environmental exploitations through time.

Archaeological sites do not fall randomly across the landscape. Many archaeologists have noted a correlation between archaeological site locations and certain micro- and macro-environmental characteristics. This project uses a simple predictive model to try to ascertain where one would be most likely to find archaeological sites, given certain conditions.

Biophysical elements most commonly used to predict site location include slope, aspect, elevation, distance to water and the presence/absence of certain landforms. Distance to water subsumes within it a variety of factors and assumptions - wildlife values, potability, presence of plant resources and possible transportation routes. Certain landforms can also point to possible site locations - glacial landforms, which are representative of older landscapes have the potential to contain very old sites. Favourable slope is seen as a factor in determining the potential for finding archaeological sites in that people are more likely set up sites on flat to gently sloping ground. Geological factors include the presence of bedrock outcropings that might be useful for lithic procurement (quarries), or that might provide good river fords or portages. Hydrological factors could indicate the presence of springs or identify drainage basin characteristics favourable for the location of clays for pottery (

Cultural characteristics thought to be important in the prediction of site potential include proximity to known sites and trails. Think of it as the archaeological version of spatial autocorrelation.

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