Pre-contact period submerged landscape archaeology in the United States has been driven and improved by the efforts of cultural resource managers (CRM). While academic organizations in the US have conducted submerged landscapes archaeology, the objective of this paper is to show how CRM projects on the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) and in the Gulf of Mexico have expanded our understanding of principles and methods for mapping and evaluating submerged pre-contact period archaeological sites.
Basically, there are two distinct kinds of submerged cultural resources that are considered by US legislation. These are historic shipwrecks or downed aircraft and pre-contact period archaeological sites. The Secretary of the Interior's qualifications for archaeologists conducting required surveys distinguish between these two kinds of archaeologists - historic and pre-contact. Methods and principles for shipwreck archaeology have been developed and practiced since the 1960s. Survey and analysis for drowned pre-contact sites on the other hand, are recent subjects for marine-focused geoarchaeologists. Geoarchaeologists are uniquely qualified to understand details of local antecedent (pre-transgression) geology, local pre-contact archaeology, and dynamic local sea level rise details necessary for predictive modeling of any particular submerged paleolandscape.
This paper will discuss how a survey for submerged pre-contact sites involves acoustic data and paleolandscape reconstruction techniques, determination of what culture group may have occupied those landscapes, and how details of sea-level rise affected that paleolandscape setting. In addition Phase II operations are necessary to test sub-bottom targets. These include coring and diver dredging operations. These methods and novel techniques for perceiving sites and reconstructing past landscapes will be described. We will show the benefits of following Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) guidelines within state waters as well as federal, and in the process of working offshore to reconstruct culture histories, it may come to pass that offshore industries will be a major contributor.