Archaeology

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Henry Shetrone

Archaeology is the scientific study of the human past. Archaeologists investigate prehistoric cultures, but also historic and even modern cultures as well.

Archaeologists study the traces of past human activities, including artifacts, features, and sites. Artifacts are objects made or used by people, such as arrowheads, pottery vessels, and personal computers. Features are non-portable structures or sets of artifacts, such as fire pits, postmolds marking the outlines of a house, burials, and trash dumps (also called middens). In addition, archaeologists study ecofacts such as animal bones and burned wood or nutshells that can provide information on ancient environments and prehistoric diet.

Together, these clues permit archaeologists to build up a detailed understanding of the varied ways of life of the peoples who have lived in Ohio, from 15,000 years ago right up the present.

If you are interested in learning more about archaeology or possibly even participating in archaeological research, there are a number of things you can do.

Educate yourself

  • Read books written for the general public.
    • Subscribe to an archaeological magazine such as American Archaeologist or Archaeology. National Geographic and Scientific American also often feature articles on archaeology.
  • Visit museums and archaeological parks.
    • Sign up for a class at your local university or community college. If your local institution doesn't offer any archaeology courses, ask the administration to consider doing so in the future.
    • Contact an archaeologist at a local university, community college, or museum to see if there are any survey or excavation projects for which you could volunteer.
      • Attend a meeting of the Ohio Archaeological Council. For information about when this association of professional archaeologists meets, see their webpage.

Collect artifacts responsibly

If you wish to pursue collecting artifacts as a hobby, there are ways to do so responsibly. Only collect artifacts exposed on the surface, do not dig without proper training and supervision.

  • Always ask permission of the landowner before you enter a field to look for artifacts.
    • Keep careful records documenting where you find each artifact.
    • Report your discoveries to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

See Also