About Archeology

Two people excavate at FOVA
An archeologist and a volunteer excavate at Fort Vancouver NHS. NPS photo.

Archeology: the scientific study of people in the past and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, sites, and other such remains.

Archeologists figure out chronologies of the past, reconstruct ways of life that no longer exist, and understand changes in human culture over time. Using the steps of archeology, archeologists carefully collect evidence and interpret its meaning. Their insights help us better understand our world.

Archeologists might excavate a village in an arid desert, document a sunken ship on the ocean floor, create maps from an airplane, research personal diaries in an archive, write reports in an office, conserve metal objects at a lab, or curate artifacts into a museum. Some focus on a time period or a culture. Others respond to disasters, like fires or floods, or address damage from looting and vandalism.

Archeology yields unique perspectives on people and places that cannot be known any other way. It provides valuable primary source evidence that can corroborate or disprove an account of events; provide new perspectives on old stories; and highlight people underrepresented in history. Archeology is a rich data source for professions such as history, ecology, and forensics.

Most archeology in the United States is conducted to comply with federal laws. These laws aim to preserve and protect archeological resources so everyone can learn from and enjoy them. The NPS manages over 80,000 archeological sites on park lands and 38 million artifacts and associated documentation in curatorial facilities. Working with state, local and Tribal partners, the NPS provides stewardship for a unique and irreplaceable archeological heritage.

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    Last updated: November 16, 2023