Archaeological Geophysics
Don Johnson            

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Don Johnson has both BS and MS degrees in geophysics from Michigan Technological University, making him one of the relatively small number of geophysicists working at archaeological sites with a formal education in geophysics.  He has over 25 years experience providing high-resolution, near-surface geophysical services to meet client objectives in many applications.  He specializes in archaeological mapping, environmental applications, underground storage tank detection, lost well locating, and hydrologic/geologic mapping.

Don has worked all over the world.  A partial list of locations where he has worked includes many states in the United stated, Turkey, Bolivia, Ecuador, Italy, and the Philippines.

He has worked on several prehistoric sites in the area around Red Wing, Minnesota.  These include Silvernale, Bartron, Bryan, and Energy Park sites.  Work at the Silvernale site included compilation of available maps and air photos to provide a consistent scale map showing mounds and other features mapped from the late 1880's to today in addition to the comprehensive magnetometer and resistance surveys conducted to help establish the sites limits and to help the archaeologists plan excavation locations.  At Bartron, he delineated the walled village.

Other Projects include:

  • Rex East Pipeline, Illinois - A sinkhole was discovered along the pipeline route and the client needed to know if any caves were associated with the sinkhole, and if so what the extent was.  The area was investigated with ground penetrating radar to search for possible caves.

  • Rivers Edge, Maryland - Planned development along the Potomac River south of Washington, DC were stalled until it could be determined if a slave cemetery was present somewhere on the 10-acre site.  Magnetometer, resistance and ground penetrating radar surveys were conducted over the entire site and several locations where graves might have been present were identified.  These locations were tested by archaeologists and although they found no graves, they found causes for all the targeted geophysical responses.

  • Fort Bedford, PA - Magnetometer and resistance surveys were conducted to locate an encampment associated with Fort Bedford.  The site dates to the revolutionary war.

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico - This project was undertaken as one part of a series of activities related to the realignment of Ruins Road through LA1674, at the eastern and southern boundaries of Aztec Ruins National Monument.  Don conducted geophysical investigations consisting of magnetometer and resistance surveys to map archaeological features where the new road would traverse the site.  Geophysical anomalies ere tested with excavations by Archaeologist Dr. Ron Schirmer of the Minnesota State University in Mankato.

  • Palmitopamba Archaeological Project, Ecuador - The 2002 season was the first in which substantial investigations (both geophysical and archaeological) were conducted.  Additional geophysical investigations were conducted in 2005.  Don has also been involved in archaeological follow up in the 2007 and 2008 field seasons. The Palmitopamba site has apparently been used for various functions prior to the Spanish Conquest.  It was originally thought to be an Inca pucará (hilltop fortress) atop a terraced hill but excavations have shown that Inca construction was limited to terraces well below the top of the hill.  An Inca building of unknown function along with other stone constructions have been found.

  • Historic St. Mary's City, Maryland - St. Mary's City is the fourth permanent settlement in British North America and Maryland's first capital.  Don conducted two seperate investigations here. One was conducted at "The Triangle" and the other in the area surrounding the Brick Chapel.  Magnetometer and Resistance surveys were conducted at "The Triangle", where he located possible structures in a corner of the site and linear anomalies throughout the site that appear to be related to past agricultural activities and old roads.  GPR, resistance, magnetometer and metal detection surveys were conducted in the area around the Brick Chapel to map colonial burials.  Numerous possible burials were mapped by the investigation.

  • Fort Ripley, Minnesota -  A magnetometer survey was conducted over and around this 19th century military fort in support of an archaeological project to identify, document, and evaluate historic properties associated with the fort.  The magnetometer data mapped several unknown structures outside the fort.  Limited testing indicates these are contemporary with the fort and may be subjected to additional investigations in the future.