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Celebrate Archeology

The National Park Service celebrates its 92nd birthday on August 25, which is Founders Day. Where would national parks be without archeology?

Well, for one thing, visitors wouldn't learn the full story of Jamestown Island, where we just celebrated the 400-year anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America. Nor would we be able to visit the accurate reconstruction of Fort Vancouver, center of the fur trade and the colonization of the northwestern United States.

Archeology supports the full and accurate interpretation of our nation's past. For some sites, like George Washington's Fort Necessity, archeology pointed historians to the locations of historical structures when documents could not. At other places, like at Women's Rights National Historical Park or the African Burial Ground National Monument, archeology provides insights on the past that cannot be known in any other way.

Archeology at Sand Creek Massacre NHS mediates between two sides of a historical story. Parks such Hovenweep National Monument were established specifically because the archeological information they contain is essential to understanding the American past.

Wondering what archeologists are doing right now in the national parks? Read the Archeology E-gram or browse through "research in the parks ." You'll find that archeologists are actively working to conduct research about the past and are sharing what they find with the public in many different ways.

Beginning in the late 19th century, preservationists worked to save archeological sites. Their efforts led to the Antiquities Act of 1906, which has had a major impact on national parks into the 21st century. For background on how archeology came to be in the National Park Service, see the story of the Antiquities Act and the political process leading to it, then check out the sites and collections it affects. Learn more about the development of archeology in the national parks and its significance in the history of archeology in America.

  • Washington's men formed ranks outside Fort Necessity in anticipation of a pitched battle. [NPS photo]
  • Detail of Frank Bender's 'Unearthed' at the African Burial Ground National Monument. [NPS photo]
  • Hovenweep Castle. [NPS photo]
  • Missouri River Basin Surveys in South Dakota. [photo]