When people think of the word “Archaeology” their first thoughts are often dinosaurs or rocks. I can’t count how many times I’ve told people I’m an archaeologist and heard, “Oh like Jurassic Park!” Sorry to crush your dreams but dinosaurs fall under paleontology and rocks are for geologists.
So if we don’t cover rocks or dinosaurs what do archaeologists do? Well, the second pop-culture reference people make is Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. While Indiana Jones technically is an archaeologist, he’s not a very good one as he never documents his finds (not to mention taking them for himself).
To be broad, Webster Dictionary defines archaeology as, “the scientific study of material remains of past human life and activities”. Material remains include items such as tools, pottery, jewelry, stone walls, and monuments. Just like any science-based field, archaeologists follow the scientific method.
The scientific method involves the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.
Within the field of archaeology, there are a few career paths, one of which is Cultural Resource Management.
At PanGIS we do Cultural Resource Management Archaeology. CRM may be called cultural heritage management or salvage archaeology. It’s important to have CRM to preserve both ancient and recent history.
Unlike in the movies where the archaeologist dashes through an ancient temple in the middle of a jungle, CRM happens all around you!
CRM is the survey and documentation of archaeological sites that need to be recorded before they are potentially damaged or destroyed.
Unfortunately, construction projects and natural disasters damage historical and archaeological sites.
CRM officially started in 1966. For federally funded projects, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act created the first legal requirements for archaeological investigation and site mitigation.
State, tribal, and municipal governments have separate laws that require developers to survey, record, and possibly excavate or avoid archaeological sites. The degree of investigation depends on the perceived significance of the findings.
CRM is an essential part of preserving history. Without CRM, we run the possibility of bulldozing over crucial historical artifacts. These historical artifacts act as a tangible bridge to the past as we learn more about our recent and distant history to inform the actions of the present.