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shell rings, airborne lidar, South Carolina, remote sensing, spatial statistics, point pattern analysis


Archaeologists have struggled to combine remotely sensed datasets with preexisting information for landscape-level analyses. In the American Southeast, for example, analyses of lidar data using automated feature extraction algorithms have led to the identification of over 40 potential new pre-European-contact Native American shell ring deposits in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Such datasets are vital for understanding settlement distributions, yet a comprehensive assessment requires remotely sensed and previously surveyed archaeological data. Here, we use legacy data and airborne lidar-derived information to conduct a series of point pattern analyses using spatial models that we designed to assess the factors that best explain the location of shell rings. The results reveal that ring deposit locations are highly clustered and best explained through a combination of environmental conditions such as distance to water and elevation as well as social factors.

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Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for American Archaeology. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.