Targeting Specific Landforms and Ecological Settings: Troutbrook Valley
ACS performed a series of surveys in "Trout Brook Valley" of western Connecticut. Background research and a surface survey were performed first to evaluate the cultural resource potential of the property. This large parcel is generally rugged, although a glacial meltwater formation occupies the central portion where prehistoric settlement was most likely to occur. Using a statistical prehistoric landscape sensitivity model, ACS was able to greatly reduce the number of tests required to adequately evaluate the property during the Phase I survey.
Topographic map of the project property (left) with stratified zones based on the prehistoric landscape sensitivity model (right) created and employed by ACS.
The partitioning or stratification of the landscape into areas of varying capacities to contain prehistoric sites has its theoretical foundations in hunting and gathering models which confidently demonstrate that land-use is predictably and statistically correlated with variability in the landscape. Thus certain landforms are found to consistently contain a disproportionate amount of prehistoric sites in any region. In the case of southern New England, this includes areas with nearly level surfaces supported by non-rocky sandy loams on glacial meltwater features in close proximity to major bodies of water.
ACS stratified the project property into areas scoring between 0 and 10 according to the sensitivity model. Those areas scoring above two have a moderate to high sensitivity, and thus received the highest density of testing during the Phase I survey. Blocks of standardized tests were also placed in other areas as a control measure. Phase I testing resulted in the discovery of five prehistoric sites, including two within the core of the highest scoring area, as well as three other sites. One of the latter sites consisted of a rockshelter recorded during the pedestrian survey, site types not readily discerned by the sensitivity model as they tend to be small environmental features that do not appear on maps used to construct and apply the model. A small butchering site was also recorded across a minor body of wetlands from the rockshelter, containing processed bone and several chert finishing flakes. In conjunction, it is projected that the shelter served as a hunting blind, contemporaneous with the use of the associated butchering site. The third site was recorded near a rare spring-fed pond, another environmental feature not readily mapped or applied by the statistical model. The other two prehistoric sites were recorded on the glacial meltwater feature and were predictably more substantial in nature. These sites contained an abundance of lithic debitage and tool fragments indicating a seasonal camp setting.
This survey illustrates the value of employing a statistical landscape sensitivity model in order to concentrate efforts on portions of project areas most likely to reveal traces of potentially significant sites. The survey also demonstrates, however, the need to consider micro-environmental factors and the value of pedestrian surface surveys to complement stratified-systematic sample fractions.