Neukom Fellow, Ph.D. 2012, University of Arkansas
Themes and Methods: Landscape Archaeology, Environmental Archaeology; Archaeological Geophysics & Remote Sensing; Geographic Information Science
Regions of interest: Ancient Near East, Persian Gulf, American Midwest
jason.t.herrmann at dartmouth.edu
Telephone: (603) 646-8192
Office: 409 Silsby
I am a landscape archaeologist who studies ancient settlement patterns and ancient human-environment interactions. I specialize in the use of geomatics with a focus on ground-based remote sensing techniques to understand long-term patterns in human settlement and land use, and apply this in active research projects in the United Arab Emirates, at Zincirli Höyük (ancient Sam'al) in Turkey, and in the Lower Illinois River Valley. I am interested in using evidence for intentional and unintentional landscape transformations brought about by ancient humans that are found through archaeological and remote sensing techniques to examine the dialectic tension between ancient humans and their environments.
In my dissertation research, I use the archaeological and sedimentological record at three sites in Dubai, UAE to trace patterns settlement and environmental change from the third through the first millennia BC to understand how people responded to environmental changes in the interior deserts of southeast Arabia. My research demonstrates that prehistoric desert sites in Southeast Arabia were not necessarily abandoned following a climatic shift toward hyper-aridity in the second and first millennia BC. Instead, this environmental shift triggered a change in the way the landscape was accessed and perceived by ancient humans. My conclusions are built upon results from archaeological survey and excavations combined with a detailed analysis of ground-penetrating radar data over sand dunes at the study sites, which I use not only to map buried archaeological features, but to reconstruct periods of dune building through analysis of sedimentary structures. I am currently working to expand this research by using a GIS to integrate local changes in climate, environment, and land use at my study sites with regional trends in environmental change and settlement.
At Zincirli Höyük, Turkey, the Iron Age city of Sam'al, I am directing a multi-sensor geophysical survey in order to understand the site's urban structure and environmental history, as part of the Neubauer Expedition of the University of Chicago. In previous seasons at Zincirli, I used ground-based remote sensing in a 25-hectare survey that revealed a nearly complete plan of the architecture of the ancient city whose accuracy has been confirmed by excavation. These results have made it possible to study the organization of settlement within the city's walls without extensive excavation. Additional geophysical survey is planned for areas outside the walls in order to reveal further architectural features and help us understand 'off-site" patterns of land use in the Iron Age and to trace physical connections between ancient Sam'al and other sites in the Karasu basin. I will also continue prospection on the central tell at Zincirli to understand the sequence of occupation and construction on the central citadel. This effort will also identify and trace submerged features relating to the site's taphonomy and help to develop a three-dimensional model of the cultural and natural landscape of Sam'al.
I am also an instructor of Geomatics for the Arizona State University Field Program at the Center for American Archeology (CAA) in Kampsville, Illinois. Our geophysical survey of the Mound House site has played a prominent role in reconstructing the original configuration of cultural features at this floodplain mound complex in the Lower Illinois Valley and has helped to trace the transformative effects of natural and anthropogenic forces on the site. Electrical resistance tomography of Mound One has revealed internal structural elements that could otherwise only have been recorded through destructive techniques. These deposits are of more than technical interest, for the composition and arrangement of specially selected sediments are understood to have held symbolic significance to Middle Woodland people beyond the ceremonial act of building the earthwork itself. Currently, I am collaborating with archaeologists at CAA to secure funding for further research that will investigate whether Hopewell community identity can be linked to similarities and differences in mound construction at sites in the Lower Illinois Valley.
Geospatially precise environmental reconstructions and remote sensing surveys both rely on the integration of multiple digital formats to create visualization for analysis and presentation and are increasingly becoming the foundation for archaeological field research, as in the projects described above. One obstacle has dogged archaeologists and other professionals tasked with presenting visualizations of ancient natural and built environments, however: the inherent temporal uncertainty that exists across all commonly used dating methods and paleoenvironmental proxies. As a Neukom Fellow, I will explore ways to visualize archaeological data, remote sensing data, and multi-proxy datasets in a dynamic, four-dimensional digital environment that can be scaled to cover large regions and include different levels of spatial resolution at archaeological sites. To do this, I will draw high-resolution subsurface data from past and active field projects, as well as relevant published work. In a field such as archaeology, that employs data from a particularly wide range of sources, advances in this particular issue could have far-reaching effects.
Last Updated: 10/9/12