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NASA HELPS EXCAVATE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST HISTORY WITH REMOTE SENSING

Press Release From: Stennis Space Center
Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 1999

John C. Stennis Space Center
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-3341

Lanee Cooksey
NASA News Chief
(228) 688-3341

HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. - A research scientist with NASA's Earth System Science Office at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County participated in Mississippi Archaeology Week Oct. 9-16 and used remote sensing to conduct non- invasive archaeology.

Dr. Marco Giardino spent the week at Buccaneer State Park near Bay St. Louis, Miss., the site of the 19th-century home of Andrew Jackson Jr., looking for artifacts and clues that would expand the historical knowledge of the house that was once perched on the edge of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

"Our part in this was to use NASA's Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to survey the site and locate areas where we can excavate," said Giardino.

Ground Penetrating Radar is an efficient, non-intrusive, non-destructive method of surveying sites that are becoming more difficult to excavate, such as burial grounds, American Indian mounds, or state and national parks.

As part of its mission to return the taxpayers' investment in the space program back to the taxpayer, NASA participated in the week-long dig along with representatives from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, volunteers from the Pearl River County Chapter of the Mississippi Archaeological Association, and the Hancock County Historical Society. Approximately 60 volunteers helped excavate the site throughout the week.

The state of Mississippi is interested in discovering more about the Gulf Coast site. It's known that Andrew Jackson Jr. purchased the house and land from Asa Russ, but it's unclear whether he expanded the original house or built a separate house. Around 1858, the house burned down and was immediately rebuilt by Jackson, who went bankrupt in the 1860s. After changing ownership several times throughout the years, the site, that sits on 16th section land, was leased in 1923 by Bishop Robert Jones for the neighboring Gulfside Methodist Assembly, a pre-eminent African American religious recreational center, where it was used as a men's dormitory.

"As such, it was the first Chataqua-style place for African Americans. Chataqua resorts were primarily beachside resorts where people could have educational, recreational and religious components in one setting," Giardino said. "The Jackson home burned again in 1935 and was never rebuilt."

After the second fire, the house's majestic columns and other large pieces were taken away and the site later became a state park.

Using the GPR, Giardino and his team of volunteers located a section of an outbuilding of the original house that showed a number of artifacts on the initial scans. They found melted glass and several nails, bricks, pottery and other artifacts dating back to the time Andrew Jackson Jr. owned the house.

"NASA is delighted to apply this high-level technology to assist our local community," said Giardino.

Through his collaboration on other projects in Florida and Louisiana, Giardino is able to correlate excavation sites with different types of remote sensing, such as thermal and digital aerial data. The Mississippi State Park Service will be able to use the results of the GPR survey of the area. When the service wishes to build additional facilities on the site, the survey will show them which historically sensitive areas to avoid.

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