Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Dr. Carolyn Heitm

Second Advisor

Dr. Heather Richards-Rissetto

Third Advisor

Dr. Phil Geib

Date of this Version

Spring 4-2017


Field, Sean P. 2017. Remote Sensing and Pathway Modelling: Investigating the Prehispanic Chacoan Landscape. (M.A. thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor Carolyn Heitman. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Sean Field


Digital tools have emerged as powerful methodologies with the potential to reshape archaeological investigation. To expand on the discourse of digital tools in archaeology, this thesis is dedicated to research regarding two specific methodologies: aerial orthoimaging and Geographic Information System (GIS) pathway modeling. To fulfill these objectives, this master’s thesis is comprised of three articles ready for publication. The first article explores the potential utilization of “out-of-the-box” drone platforms as a supplement to traditional pedestrian surface survey. Although drones utilized under these parameters fail in this objective, high resolution data is gathered via greatly reduced field time and data processing. The second article employs aerial imaging procedures, ethnohistoric, and legacy data to identify landscape and archaeological feature shifts in the Chacoan region of modern day New Mexico. These shifts are demonstrated through a case study of the landscape surrounding Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. Additionally, a concise review of the major Chacoan roads is presented in response to widespread confusion of these features. Ultimately, this article demonstrates that knowledge of Chacoan roadways are underinformed, that certain roads are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate, and that land management plays a significant role in roadway feature erasure. The third article is a Least Cost Analysis of Chacoan roadways, designed to replicate and predict economic timber portage throughout the region. These analyses succeed in highly correlative pathway model. These results indicate that certain Chacoan roads were optimal routes for the transportation of heavy loads, and that particular roads may have been constructed specifically to facilitate timber portage.

Advisor: Carolyn Heitman