Recently, archaeologists have started to become more interested in World War II sites: plane crash site, buildings, military fields, and battlefields.
Do you do dinosaurs?
No. Paleontologists are the people who study dinosaurs. We study the materials left by human beings.
How much money do you get paid?
About the same as a schoolteacher. (This is a very common question from junior high and high school kids)
Is archaeology hard work?
Is archaeology fun?
Why is archaeology important?
It helps us understand humanity—ourselves--better.
It helps us see what all of us have in common—and can help people have more understanding and compassion for those who are different in some way.
It shows us the long view—how cultures survived, thrived, and collapsed. It shows us how we got to where we are today. It builds our memory as a species.
By showing us the mistakes ancient people made—like, for example, destroying the ecosystems that sustained them—it can help us avoid making the same mistakes.
Where do archaeologists work?
Archaeology is done pretty much everywhere you go across the entire world. You might think of Egypt, Israel, France, Greece, and places like that. But archaeologists are working in places like North Dakota, Wyoming, and (of course) Utah. You don’t have to go to some far-off exotic place to do important fieldwork.
Sometimes, we even do archaeology within cities. Crews building the Trax train in Salt Lake City found a major Fremont village beneath South Temple Street a few years ago, and archaeologists learned a lot from studying it.
What's the coolest or best artifact to find?
First of all, archaeologists aren't just interested in artifacts. For instance, archaeologists have found evidence of Douglas fir, beaver, and ducks in a 11,000-year-old site near the Escalante River in Utah. This area is now desert, with no firs, beavers, or ducks anywhere close! Archaeologists are interested in things like this, for what we can learn about environmental change, for one thing. (For more information about this site, see the article "Deep Human History in Escalante Valley and Southern Utah" in the Summer 2011 issue of Utah Historical Quarterly.)
Coprolites (prehistoric human feces) can tell archaeologists a lot about what people ate, and animal bones and soil samples that contain seeds and pollen can tell us about foods and environment.
What should I do if I find an artifact?
Artifacts on public lands are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal and unethical to collect artifacts on public lands.
Artifacts are items made or used by humans and include arrowheads or flakes, pottery or potsherds, mats, baskets, rock art, and even old bottles and cans. All of these are protected under the law.
Never dig in an archaeological site or collect artifacts from the surface!
Is it illegal to collect arrowheads?
It is illegal to collect artifacts from sites on federal or state lands. It is illegal to take anything from private land without the permission of the landowner. But beyond that, removing artifacts from sites disrupts the archaeological record, because the artifact is removed from its context.
Illegal artifact collection is a huge problem in Utah. Some archaeological sites are no longer visible because all of the artifacts have been collected. People have been sent to prison and/or fined for damaging archaeological sites on public lands.
What should I do if I find bones?
If you find human remains, contact the local law enforcement agency. Human remains, including any part of a human body in any stage of decomposition, including ancient human remains, are protected under state and federal laws. In Utah, the state law covers human remains found on private lands as well.
What should I do if see someone destroying a site?
If you witness persons damaging rock art or an archaeological site, call local law enforcement with a description of the persons and their vehicle. Get a license number if possible. Don't try to apprehend or confront them yourself; leave that up to law enforcement. On federal lands, you can call 1-800-722-3998 to report archaeological vandalism.
How long have people lived in Utah?
Native peoples have lived in Utah for the last 10,000 - 11,000 years (at least).
What tribes live here in the distant past?
Archaeologists don't know what "tribes" lived in Utah thousands of years ago. We have our own names for them that help us categorize them and understand them.
The terms Paleoindian, Archaic, Fremont, and Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloan describe the prehistoric cultures of Utah.Could you just call them all “Indians”?
Is it wrong to use the word Anasazi?
That term is controversial sometimes. “Anasazi” comes from a Navajo word meaning “Enemy Ancestors.” The label has been used since the 1880s. Some modern Pueblo people object to this term, but no agreement on an alternative has been reached among the different native groups and archaeologists. Although “Ancestral Puebloans” is commonly used, archaeologists often still use “Anasazi.”
What Native groups were here when the European settlers arrived?
Utes, Paiutes, Goshutes, Navajo, and Shoshone lived here.
What animals did prehistoric people domesticate?
Humans and dogs have lived together for thousands of years, and all of the prehistoric groups in Utah had domesticated dogs. The Ancestral Puebloans also domesticated the turkey.
Did Indians eat their dogs?
Dogs were sometimes used as a food source in prehistoric Utah. Indian people also used dogs for hunting, and in times before the horse, dogs were used to carry loads. On the Great Plains, the time before the horse were called "Dog Days" by old Indians who talked with anthropologists in the early 1900s.
When did American Indians begin to use horses?
The Spanish reintroduced horses to North America in the 1500s. Soon after, native groups began to use them. Within 150 years, many groups in the western United States had horses. But for thousands of years, Native Americans simply walked from place to place.
What crops did prehistoric people grow?
Here in Utah, Native groups started experimenting with corn about 2,500 years ago. The Fremont lived a mixed life of hunting and gathering along with the cultivation of corn, beans, and squash. The Ancestral Puebloans were more settled “farmers,” growing these same crops, but they also gathered wild plant foods.
Tools for plant processing, the mano or handstone and the metate or grinding stone, are often found at archaeological sites in Utah.
When did Native people begin using the bow and arrow?
Roughly 2,500 years ago. Prior to the bow, people used an atlatl, or spear thrower, for hunting.
Was there warfare in prehistoric Utah?
The term "warfare" is open for interpretation, but we do know that there was violence in prehistoric Utah. The archaeological record tells of murder, beatings, disarticulation, and possibly cannibalism.
Did people live around the Great Salt Lake?
Yes and how! The marsh system around the Great Salt Lake provided great resources in terms of food, usable plants, and fresh water. Human groups in the Great Basin often would focus their culture on the marsh systems. Marsh systems allowed people in some parts of Utah to live in year-round settlements adjacent to the marshes.
Where are Indian burial grounds?
Different groups buried their dead in different ways and in different places. Sometimes the dead were placed in specially prepared "graves" that were next to or within houses. Often, the Ancestral Puebloans would bury their dead in the midden area of the village. Middens are areas where trash and debris were placed, but it is also a place where the dirt is soft and easy to dig. Some groups placed their dead in trees or on platforms made of wood. Some would place the dead high in the mountains on talus slopes or in rock cracks.
Special care was often given to the dead person, who might be buried with utensils and other offerings.
Were some tribes rich and other tribes poor?
Try to think of this in terms of different cultures. All of the Native American groups who lived here were very different from each other. Some groups possessed finely made pottery and lived in masonry buildings, while others lived a nomadic lifestyle as hunters and gatherers. Groups were different, and you can’t call them rich and poor or good and bad.
When did people first make pottery?
About 2,000 years ago, the idea of pottery reached the Southwest. The Fremont and the Ancestral Puebloans began making pottery by coiling strands of clay mixed with a temper, usually sand or crushed rock.
Much of the pottery made in Utah is what archaeologists call "grayware," due to its color. Both the Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont made excellent pottery, and they decorated some of it with white slips and black paints.
In historic times, the Paiutes and Shoshones made pottery.
What do the symbols on rock art mean?
Nobody knows exactly what they mean. Symbols have meanings, but these can be different for each person who looks at them. Obviously, some symbols represent humans or animals, but most of the time the intended meaning is unknown.
Are there different types of rock art?
Petroglyphs are symbols pecked into the rock. Pictographs are actually painted on the rock. In Utah, we have both types of rock art.
Using Google Earth, some people have discovered strange lines, circles, and other shapes (geoglyphs) in Utah's deserts. Were they made by ancient people or visitors from another planet? Read an explanation here.
Where can I learn more about archaeology in Utah?