The archaeology and remote sensing of Santa Elena's four millennia of occupation

Victor D. Thompson, Chester B. DePratter, Jacob Lulewicz, Isabelle H. Lulewicz, Amanda D. Roberts Thompson, Justin Cramb, Brandon T. Ritchison, Matthew H. Colvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this study, we present the results of a comprehensive, landscape-scale remote sensing project at Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina. Substantial occupation at the site extends for over 4000 years and has resulted in a complex array of features dating to different time periods. In addition, there is a 40-year history of archaeological research at the site that includes a large-scale systematic shovel test survey, large block excavations, and scattered test units. Also, modern use of the site included significant alterations to the subsurface deposits. Our goals for this present work are threefold: (1) to explicitly present a logical approach to examine sites with long-term occupations; (2) to examine changes in land use at Santa Elena and its implications for human occupation of this persistent place; and (3) to use the remote sensing program and past archaeological research to make substantive suggestions regarding future research, conservation, and management of the site. Our research provides important insight into the distribution of cultural features at this National Historic Landmark. While the majority of archaeological research at the site has focused on the Spanish period, our work suggests a complex and vast array of archaeological features that can provide insight into over 4000 years of history in the region. At a gross level, we have identified possible Late Archaic structures, Woodland houses and features, Late Prehistoric and early Historic council houses, and a suite of features related to the Spanish occupation which builds on our previous research at the site. In addition to documenting possible cultural features at the site, our work illustrates the value of multiple remote sensing techniques used in conjunction with close-interval shovel test data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number248
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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