Our aim with this feature is to promote understanding of this very significant resource type in the National Register, encourage you to think more about archeology and its significance, and introduce you to how the Register and other National Park Service programs preserve these exceptional resources.
Archeologist notes feature at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
What is Archeology? Archeology is the study of the past ways of life through material remains. Archeology is often combined with oral history and ethnography to generate multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary studies of past lifeways. The National Register defines an archeological property as the place or places where the remnants of a past culture survive in a physical context that allows for the interpretation of these remains. When people think of archeology they usually think of excavated sites or artifacts in a museum, certainly these are part of archeology, but they are only a part of what archeologists actually do.
Archeologists have at least 3 connected over-arching goals: 1) reconstruct sequences of societies and events in chronological order in local and regional contexts, 2) reconstruct past lifeways – all aspects of life, and 3) achieve some understanding of how and why human societies have changed through time.
While many people may consider archeology to be a past-time, or “treasure hunting”, archeology is a discipline that is very often crucial for understanding and representing the past of all Americans. Archeology provides the opportunity to look at the past from a previously unexplored point of view, to represent the past of those that have no written records or for which the documentary record is biased or incomplete, to understand the “deep past” or precontact history over many thousands of years. Archeology can represent the everyday life of ordinary individuals, families, or groups, or it can honor the material traces of those Americans who were subjected to terrible adversities but through individual or cultural accomplishments or perseverance were able to overcome those circumstances. An archeological property can be anything from the wreckage of a World War II aircraft, a Civil War battlefield, or a simple rural farmstead, to a Mound that was built thousands of years ago through a spectacular feat of engineering, or a place where Native Americans made tools.