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Archaeology in Oklahoma

Connecting Archaeology and History

How are history and archaeology related?

History and archaeology both study ancient people and things. Specifically, historians study older documents and artifacts and create an interpretation of the past for the public. Archaeologists excavate artifacts that both the archaeologists and historians study. Archaeologists also look at historical documents, but they typically use them for background information on a site. The fields of history and archaeology study very similar things but do so from different viewpoints.

How are history and archaeology different?

History and archaeology are different in that they study the artifacts from different perspectives. Archaeologists are more concerned with the physical evidence (artifacts); historians rely more on documentary evidence to support their work.

Why is this important?

Even though historians and archaeologists study the past differently, they are connected. It is important to remember that when studying early history, the evidence historians use most likely comes from an archaeological site discovered by a professional. When an archaeologist is preparing for a dig, they do background research and use historical archives to help estimate who might have lived there.

Impact on today?

Archaeology sites are found all over the world every day leading to new insights of the past. The artifacts the archaeologists find, after being analyzed, go to museums all over the world to share the past with their visitors. Maybe one day the toy you played with as a child will be found in an archaeological site and be put on display for the world to see and interpret.

How does this connect to museums, and where can you learn about the field of archaeology?

Artifacts are objects made or used by humans. Artifacts are typically found because they were discarded, someone lost them, or they were broken. Once the object has been found, cleaned, and analyzed, it typically goes to a museum for safe-keeping and to show the public what was found. The Oklahoma History Center is a repository for Oklahoma artifacts. They have artifacts from all over Oklahoma, which cover all of the state's history. Many of these artifacts are archaeological items donated by the Oklahoma Archeological Survey (OAS) in Norman. The mission of the Archeological Survey is to conduct basic research on Oklahoma's prehistory and early history, to work with the citizens of our state in preserving archaeological sites significant to the state's cultural heritage, and to disseminate the results of their work through teaching, public lectures, and publishing the results of their findings. Research faculty of the Survey hold advanced degrees in anthropology with a specialization in archaeology. Universities in Oklahoma at which you can obtain these degrees include University of Oklahoma, University of Tulsa, and Oklahoma Baptist University. Oklahoma State University does not have an anthropological degree at this time.