Professional Archaeologists of Kansas
NEWS RELEASE April 5, 2004
- Dr. Brad Logan, President, Professional
Archaeologists of Kansas, (785)532-2419, email@example.com
- Dr. Robert Hoard, State Archeologist,
Kansas State Historical Society, (785)272-8681, x-269, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Virginia Wulfkuhle, Public Archeologist,
Kansas State Historical Society, (785)272-8681 x-255, email@example.com
April is Kansas Archaeology Month!
Kansas Archeology Month celebrates the
role of archaeology in studying and understanding the state's historic
and prehistoric past. The purpose is to increased public knowledge
about the past, the science of archaeology, and to involve the public
in protecting our cultural heritage.
As part of our educational outreach for
Kansas Archaeology Month 2004, The Professional Archaeologists of Kansas
is providing a series of four articles about Kansas archaeology. The
first article in this series, prepared by Dr. Robert Hoard, the State
Archeologist, is presented below:
What is Archeology?
For over 11,000 years people have lived
in what we now call Kansas. But when fifth graders get their big dose
of Kansas history, they discover the first written records we have
of Kansans are from Coronado's 1541 visit, and the written history
is pretty sparse until the mid-1800s. That means that about 95% of
the state's history was never written down.
A lot has changed in 11,000 years. The
Ice Age ended, and animals like the wooly mammoth became extinct in
this area. But people were here, descendants of people who crossed
over from northwest Asia. These people hunted the mammoth and other
animals, and when these creatures disappeared they focused on bison,
elk, deer, and small game. Families moved into an area, captured and
gathered what food was readily available, and when the search became
more difficult, moved on to where food was more plentiful. Between
seven and five thousand years ago the region's climate became noticeably
drier. People adapted by living near the remaining sources of
water and focused on local plants and animals for food. When the rains
increased they spread out again, sometimes living in large groups for
several seasons, maybe continuously for a few years. They spent more
time harvesting small seeds from weeds like goosefoot and pigweed for
food, and began making fired clay pots. Before long they were farmers,
settled in villages, first growing native plants like sunflowers, later,
about 1500 years ago, growing corn, beans, and squash.
These are the people encountered by Coronado,
later by French traders, still later by Lewis and Clark. Soon Americans
of European and African descent had claimed and settled most of Kansas.
How do we know all of this? Some of our
knowledge comes from oral history, stories handed down over generations
in American Indian families. Some of this history has been written
down, but much more was not. Still, there is another way to discover
the past. If you look hard you can find the traces of the earliest
people of Kansas. You can find the discarded tip of a broken stone
spear point or the burned circle of earth where someone roasted roots
for a meal. You can find pieces of pottery scattered across a
field. Sometimes people find storage pits that were filled with household
debris after they were emptied of food. Sometimes house floors with
fire pits, storage pits, and the remains of wall posts are found.
Those of us that study these remains are
archeologists, and we use the traces left by those before us to reconstruct
their way of life. We trace the changes in stone tools and pottery
to get a general idea of which styles were in use earlier and which
are more recent, and test our assumptions by radiocarbon dating organic
material from archeological sites. We map the locations of sites and
the houses, fire pits and storage pits to see where they fall on the
landscape, to see where one kind of site ends and another begins. We
look at the plant and animal remains discarded after meals and find
out what season they were harvested and then know if a site was occupied
for weeks, months, or years. We find artifacts from far away and begin
to learn which groups were trading partners.
It's not just American Indian sites that
are studied. Records for early forts, trading posts, small businesses,
and early Euro-American homesteads are limited, but excavation and
analysis of these sites can tell us about these peoples' food choices,
their economy, their health. Some groups like African Americans, women
and children, railroad workers, and traders have an even fewer written
records left behind. Archeologists look at the sites and artifacts
left behind by these people to see how well they fit-or do not fit-with
the recorded history.
You can spend a lifetime doing this kind
of work, and some of us do.
We invite you to join us. April is Archeology
Month, a time for us to share the stories that might otherwise never
be heard. We will be keeping you posted with articles, lectures, and
links to resources to help you hear these stories that are still being
Dr. Robert Hoard, State Archeologist
Kansas State Historical Society
6425 S. W. 6th Avenue
Topeka, Kansas 66615-1099
phone: 785.272.8681 x269
Annual Spring meeting of the Professional Archaeologists of Kansas (PAK)
Date and Time: February 21, at 1 PM
Title:PAK meeting-Join us to hear Chaz Evans of the Archaeological Conservancy and learn more about the only national non-profit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the best of our nation's remaining archaeological sites.
Location:407 Pershing Court, Fort Riley, Kansas
Contact: Call 785-280-2036 for assistance in locating the meeting place.