First Advisor

Shelby Anderson

Date of Publication

Winter 3-22-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Remote sensing, Archaeology -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley -- Remote sensing, Mounds -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley, Kalapuya Indians -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 103 pages)


Archaeologists grapple with the problematic nature of archaeological discovery. Certain types of sites are difficult to see even in the best environmental conditions (e.g., low-density lithic scatters) and performing traditional archaeological survey is challenging in some environments, such as the dense temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. Archaeologists need another method of survey to assess large areas and overcome environmental and archaeological barriers to site discovery in regions like the Pacific Northwest. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, a method for digitally clearing away swaths of vegetation and surveying the landscape, is one possible solution to some of these archaeological problems.

The Calapooia Watershed in the southern Willamette Valley in Oregon is an ideal area to focus LiDAR's unique archaeological capabilities, as the region is heavily wooded and known to contain hundreds of low-lying earthwork features or mounds. Modern Indigenous Communities, such as the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, consider the Willamette Valley mound sites highly sensitive locations, as ethnographic accounts and limited archaeological work indicate that some are burial sites. However, these mounds have received little archaeological study. Land ownership (94 percent privately owned), dense vegetation that obscures mounds, and the sheer expanse of the landscape (234,000 acres) have impeded professional archaeological research.

The focus of this thesis is the development and the testing of a LiDAR and remote sensing predictive model to see if this type of model can detect where potential mound sites are located in the Calapooia Watershed, Oregon. The author created a LiDAR and remote sensing predictive model using ArcMap 10.5.1, LiDAR, and publicly available aerial imagery; manipulating data using standard hydrological tools in ArcMap. The resulting model was successful in locating extant previously identified mound sites. The author then conducted field work and determined that the model was also successful in identifying seven new, previously unrecorded mound sites in the watershed. The author also identified several possible patterns in mound location and characteristics through exploratory model analysis and fieldwork; this exploratory analysis highlights areas for future mound research.

This project has clearly established a method and a model appropriate for archaeological mound prospection in the Willamette Valley. This project also shows the efficacy of LiDAR predictive models and feature extraction methods for archaeological work, which can be modified for use in other regions of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Furthermore, by identifying these mounds I have laid the groundwork for future studies that may continue to shed light on why and how people created these mounds, which will add valuable information to a poorly understood site type and cultural practice.


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