Historic Archaeology

For our final post of Archaeology Month, we turned to Samantha Kirkley, the State Coordinator for Project Archaeology. She is based at Southern Utah University and has worked with us here at Frontier Homestead on a variety of topics. We asked her to explain a little bit about Historic Archaeology. Archaeology is a sub-discipline of anthropology and can be defined as the study of people from the past.  It is often defined into two areas of research: Prehistoric and Historic.  While much of the theory and practice are similar, Historic Archaeology has a

Historic Artifacts Courtesy of Samantha Kirkley

unique ability to bring the story of past people to life through artifacts, historic structures, oral histories, personal and government records, and landscape.  Often, the mundane items such as buttons, bottles, cans, stove parts, and the like tell us the most about the daily lives of the inhabitants of a particular location.

Historic Archaeology focuses on the study of people from the recent past.  Some have tried to define it as the archaeology aided by written records; but, in many cases, archaeology enhances our understanding of written history.  Although, written records extend back 5000+ years ago, historic archaeology begins with the first European colonizing efforts in the 1400's and follows numerous lines of inquiry into modern times.

Some of the most notable work in this specialized field include the recent excavations at Jamestown and metal detection archaeology at the Battle of Little Big Horn.   A few historic sites worth preserving and visiting in our area include Old Iron Town, the Caretaker’s Cabin at Cedar Breaks, the Mountain Meadows Massacre Site, and Silver Reef in Washington County.  Remember to leave artifacts where you find them, even that old bottle.

Caretaker's Cabin at Cedar Breaks Courtesy of Samantha Kirkley


Charcoal Kiln at Old Irontown





Here are a few links if you would like more information about some of the places Samantha mentioned:

Jamestown Archaeology

Little Bighorn Archaeology

Old Irontown