Home / General Knowledge / Archaeology / Archaeology is far more than the study of the ‘dead’


Via The Pueblo Chieftain : “We Dig the Past”, Pueblo Archaeology & Historical Society’s (PAHS) unofficial motto, underscores the excitement members have in the various avenues addressed by this scientific discipline.

Actually older than anthropology but long an adjunct to it, Herodotus (484-425 BCE) is credited with being the first scholar to systematically study “really” ancient cultures. In the first half of the 20th century, archaeology became recognized as a separate school of scientific discovery.

Here in the Southwest, Mimbres black on white pots, Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, Hohokam irrigation systems, and area-wide images pecked into or painted on cliff over-hangs, free standing boulders, and inside rock shelters provide ample breath-taking moments of discovery and fascinating areas of study.

It is said anthropology studies living cultures and archaeology the dead. What an informative story has been is being unearthed by archaeologists and avocational archaeologists alike.

Many members of PAHS are trained avocational archaeologists: some self-taught from years of study plus fieldwork and some having completed course work provided by the Colorado Archaeology Society.

Dedicated to community outreach, PAHS underwrites opportunities for sharing an awareness of archaeological and historical discoveries to contemporary audiences throughout Pueblo County.

Collaborating with the Pueblo Heritage Museum, members of PAHS volunteer to serve as “Parents” in the Legacy Trunk Program, taking collections of artifacts in “trunks” for presentations at local schools. Doug Baxter, current president of PAHS, and Jeannie, his wife — dressed charmingly, authentically as Zebulon Pike and his wife — have presented a piece of Colorado history more than 50 times to third- and fourth-grade classes. And Warren Nolen presents “Archaeology” and Andrew Ruybal “Rock Art”.

Currently, PAHS is developing a new exhibit to join the Wallace Rock Art at the Heritage Museum. A stratified “dig site” with artifacts locally found at various levels including explanations of the process and what can be learned about paleo-inhabitants is one of this year’s projects.

The public is always invited to attend PAHS’s monthly meetings at which a variety of speakers such as, Bruce Schumacher, regional paleontologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Frank Early, university professor and expert in Apishapa and High Plains Upper Republican cultural groups, and local historian Joann Dodd cover a variety of subjects pertinent to archaeology and history.

Internationally distinguished archaeologists Larry Lorendorf (rock art specialist) and Gary Ziegler (Peru’s Inca Heartland explorer) are examples of presenters that the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library and PAHS bring to the community for free public presentations.

From time to time, avocational archaeologists from the group are called upon by local landowners who are curious about apparent evidence of paleo-activity on their cliffs and along their creek beds, to examine rock art and artifacts.

The Smithsonian exhibit “Exploring Human Origins: What It Means to Be Human”, was co-sponsored by PAHS and the Rawlings library.

PAHS volunteers, under the guidance of Tammi Moe, MLIS, archivist,with the Pueblo City-County Library District, have been inventorying and organizing the Colorado Rock Art Association’s Collection, which came last year from CSU to be housed here. The many thousands of rock art images in the collection are extremely valuable to the general public and researchers alike because the originals are vulnerable to the friable “canvas”, nature’s assaults, and human ravaging.

In 2017, one might ask, “Why should all that old stuff matter to me? A hunk of Sumerian clay tablet or a carved sandstone lamp from the Lascaux cave in France or a bit of a bronze halter ornament from the North Caspian steppes might make a nice decorator item, but really,who cares in this time of political upheaval, national anxiety, and world-wide threats?”

Internationally, archaeologists, in tandem with climatologists, geneticists, linguists, neuropsychologists, paleontologists and other scientific researchers, provide concrete evidence of the effects homo sapiens have had on nature and each other. Books such as Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, David J. Meltzer’s “First Peoples in a New World”, and David W. Anthony’s “The Horse, The Wheel, and Language” are excellent opportunities to explore humanity’s effect on the planet and human ingenuity.

Over 100 years of scientific investigation, currently supported by DNA testing, affirms our relatedness. We are all cousins. Depending on climate and geography, as homo sapiens out of Africa colonized the world, evidence of our inadvertent destruction has been preserved for contemporary seekers to uncover.

When we stopped eating horses and started riding them, when a word for “wool” appeared in vocabularies, how the colonizing Proto-Indo-Europeans made it from the Eurasian Steppes to the Atlantic Ocean, how geography in the Americas prevented the lama and the wheel from connecting, and how this evidence brings contemporary societies thought-provoking information applicable to current conditions, is the purview of archaeology.


About the author: Editorial Team



Recent posts in Archaeology