Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis



First Advisor

Joanna Casey


This thesis looks at the effect of timber harvesting on archaeological resources. Before federal agencies undertake any activity on federal land, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that they consider how their work will affect cultural resources. Assessments are often based on assumptions about the potential impact rather than on any real understanding about how particular activities affect specific types of archaeological deposits. During the 1970s and 1980s, numerous studies sought to understand site formation and deformation processes, but in the past two decades these kinds of studies have declined as research foci as archaeologists seek to address issues of agency, identity, power and meaning. The need for basic understandings about the formation and destruction of the archaeological record has never been more necessary. The vast majority of archaeological research in the USA today is conducted as Cultural Resource Management (CRM), with government agencies and private businesses spending millions of dollars annually -- 300 million as of 1999 (Patterson 1999:165) -- on impact assessments, mitigation and data recovery. While some activities such as flooding or earth moving, can be expected to have an obvious, destructive effect on archaeological resources, the impact of many other activities is less clear. Furthermore, differences in the methods, technology and the environment can significantly change the impact of activities on archaeological sites. Archaeologists should be encouraged to continuously assess the actual impact of the activities that are considered to have an adverse affect on the cultural resources in their areas.

This thesis looks at the impact of timber harvesting on archaeological sites in South Carolina. Currently, timber harvests are universally considered to be an activity that has an adverse effect on archaeological resources. For this research I conduct a series of experiments in order to ascertain the impact of timber harvesting on surface and near-surface artifact scatters of archaeological materials. The results of these experiments indicate that the impact of certain kinds of timber harvesting techniques is relatively small, suggesting that timber harvesting should not necessarily be considered as having an adverse effect on shallow archaeological artifact deposits, and therefore the intensive archaeological surveys that are currently routinely done prior to timber harvests are, in many cases, unnecessary. As in any science multiple experiments are necessary to develop support for a set of findings, this situation is no different. Other experiments should be carried out in different locations with different parameters in order to build support for the findings described here.


© 2010, Sean Garett Taylor