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.