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Archaeology Is

Archaeology is frequently presented as something that occurs in faraway places and that involves the investigation of people that lived long ago. Some archaeologists do study the remains of very old cultures located in faraway places, but others study the people who lived at the village, farmstead or logging camp located just down the road. Archaeological deposits occur figuratively and literally under our feet.

  • Archaeology is cumulative. It requires work at many sites over an extended period of time to develop a more complete interpretation of the past.
  • Archaeology is inter-disciplinary. Archaeologists work with geologists, geographers, soil scientists, traditional historians, human ecologists, historians, folklorists, as well as members of local communities to piece together an interpretation of the past.
  • Archaeology is comparative. It uses a cross-cultural comparative perspective, both through time and across time, to search for universal aspects of human behavior.
  • Archaeology is multicultural. It strongly promotes respect for people and their culture in the present and in the past.

Archaeology is well-suited for studying the lives of people who are not well represented in the written record because archaeologists approach the past through the study of the things that people threw out, lost or left behind. Archaeologists can and do use written records and tradition history if they are available, But, their primary focus is on the material culture: the objects people make and use.

Goals of Archaeology

  • to broaden people's perspective of human society.
  • to reconstruct past lifeways, particularly of people whose daily lives remain a mystery. People who are not included in the written record
  • to place these reconstructions into a sequence of past events, regional developments or chronologies
  • to verify the "facts" of particular historical events; to aid in site reconstruction, site interpretations and heritage preservation.

Archaeological sites are:

  • places where people lived, worked, or worshipped. They may be the remains of an Indian campsite that was used 5000 years ago. They may be an area where lead was mined by either Native Americans or Euro-Americans. They could be the remains of a farmstead, a limestone quarry, a pottery factory, a shipwreck, or a railroad depot
  • non-renewable resources. If an archaeological site is destroyed, it is lost forever.


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