Archeology is the study of the human past through its material remains. By studying material remains as small as a pot sherd or as large as a village, we can learn how people lived, what they ate, how they made their clothes and tools, clues about their social structures, and much more.
Both spellings are correct, but the spelling archaeology with and "ae" came first. You can read more about the history of the word here.
In the USA, a Bachelor's Degree in Archeology or Anthropology is often required to begin entry level work. A Masters or Doctorate degree is required to lead your own investigations.
There are many reasons to excavate sites. In the USA, it is estimated that more than 90% of archeological excavations are mandated by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. to manage cultural resources found on US soil. This document requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of development on historic sites and to provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) with a reasonable opportunity to comment. In addition, Federal agencies are required to consult on the Section 106 process regarding historic and prehistoric sites with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPO), Indian Tribes (to include Alaska Natives), and Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO).
For example, if someone wants build a new highway, an archeological assessment of the area must be conducted. Federal, state, and tribal authorities review the work completed and make determinations as to whether it is ok to proceed with construction, more archeological work is needed, or an excavation is necessary.
Sites may also be excavated under other circumstances because of their research value. Universities and other organizations often conduct their own investigations. These projects vary in subject matter and location, but they are still required to obtain permits to do archeological investigations.
Archeology is valuable to different people for different reasons. It can answer questions about lost civilizations, colonization, human evolution, and human migration across small regions or the planet.
There are many people who don't know much of their history or heritage. Genealogy websites and DNA tests are helpful, but archeology often provides deeper insights into the past. A great example of the personal impacts archeology can have on a family or community is evident in our participation in the Bolivar project, where a resident of Denton county received first hand experience excavating the blacksmith shop owned by his great, great grandfather.
Archeology can also provide answers after a disaster. It is used to investigate viral epidemics, mass graves in war torn areas, and help in natural disasters such as the preservation and recording of sites after Hurricane Katrina and the reconstruction of New Orleans.
For many, archeology is simply the means to answer burning questions. "What happened?" "Why did it happen?" "How did it happen?" "Who did it happen to?" The contexts of these questions vary, but they are fundamental to our discipline.
Each field school is a little different, so it is always recommended to ask someone on your project what to bring and to research the area and conditions where you're working. It is always good to dress appropriately for the work you are doing. Hiking or gardening clothes rated for certain weather conditions are recommended. Specialty items might be provided by your project leads, depending on the circumstances.
Archeologists typically always have:
Depending on your project, you may need the following:
Archeology can be very physically demanding. You will get dirty, hot, wet, cold, and it may be uncomfortable. Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for the work.
Lastly, archeology is fun! It is most important to have a good time. Getting to know new people and places is one of the greatest perks of being an archeologist.
In the state of Texas, items found on a property belong to the land owner. While you are allowed to excavate yourself, NTAS highly recommends you seek the advice of archeologists your area. Archeology is a very destructive practice, so you have one shot to excavate and record properly. We do not recommend you excavate on your own.
NTAS has top notch professional and avocational archeologists in our membership, and we area always eager to help you record the site and determine how to proceed. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you have a site, and we'll reach out to help you.
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North Texas Archeological Society
P.O. Box 24679, Ft. Worth, Texas 76124
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