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What difference does it make if the artifacts get moved?

[photo] The Emancipation 
                  Day Parade, Richmond, Virginia.

The Emancipation Day Parade, Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1905, marked the fall of Richmond. It was near Maggie L. Walker National Historical Site. (NPS)

Archeological Context

Archeological context refers to the arrangement or position of archeological data within the soil matrix, and associations with other artifacts and ecofacts. Archeological context provides important clues regarding past human behaviors. When a park visitor removes an artifact from a site, that artifact loses its value because it has been removed from its context. Context, also called provenience, is the most important aspect of an artifact. It allows the archeologist to study the artifact in relation to its stratigraphy, natural environment, cultural environment, and surrounding artifacts.

Social Context

Every object exists in many relative dimensions at once. Around it is a rich network of associations and contrasts that can be followed through to interpret its meaning. An artifact's social context encompasses interpretations of its technical production and use, its values to the people who made and used it, and perhaps how and if the object symbolized their ideology. If an artifact's archeological context is lost, its social context is also lost unless otherwise recorded.

Case studies

Archeology at the Battle of the Little Bighorn—Methods
See the importance of provenience when archeologists recovered evidence for the movement of individual firearms over the battlefield, verified cavalry positions, and defined previously unknown Indian fighting areas.

Archeology at Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Archeology revealed personal esthetics and daily practices of turn-of-the-century African American tenants of Richmond, Virginia's Jackson Ward.

TSM/MJB