About Archaeology

What is archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of human history through the physical remains of the past. In the western United States, archaeology focuses on the history of Native American groups who have lived here for thousands of years and on early non-Native explorers, traders, miners, and settlers who arrived only 200 to 300 years ago. All people and cultures have left behind traces of their lives: stone tools, rock art, cooking vessels, and house foundations. By carefully studying artifacts and features scattered across the land, and by consulting with living descendants, archaeologists try to answer questions about past human behavior and to preserve the remnants of traditional and historical ways of life for all to remember and enjoy.

You might be surprised to learn that archaeologists are at work every day throughout the United States. Thanks to our country’s commitment to our environment and our national heritage, we have laws to protect archaeological sites and artifacts on all public lands. Since Far Western’s founding in 1979, we have worked with state, federal and local agencies, Native American tribes, and private companies to meet the requirements of these laws, and at the same time to provide important historical, cultural, and scientific information to other scholars and to the public.

Learn more about archaeology by visiting our Public Outreach and Interpretation projects, viewing our Featured Projects, or watching some of our videos below.

Looking for Pieces of the PuzzleLooking for Pieces of the Puzzle is a seven-minute video of archaeologists at work along State Route 49, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of western Tuolumne County, California.

UC Davis Project to Honor Native AmericansUC Davis contracted with Far Western to prepare a plan to honor Native Americans, particularly the local Patwin people. Far Western designed 11 installations on the university campus. The largest is a contemplative garden in the UC Davis Arboretum.

UC Davis Project to Honor Native AmericansBreaking New Ground is a video by Phil Gross. Produced by Kelly McGuire, the 32-minute film is about Native American participation in archaeological projects. The film has been sent to more than 250 native tribes and as many agency archaeologists.

Public Outreach and Interpretation

Public Outreach

Public Outreach and Interpretation

One of our particular talents is the design and production of broadcast-quality films, interpretive signs, brochures, training manuals, and other educational and outreach products. These often serve as mitigation for projects where adverse effects to significant archaeological or historical resources are unavoidable. Our highly skilled team will research and write content; supply original paintings, illustrations, photographs, and maps; and track down archival images, to make our educational and outreach products truly compelling.

To learn more, visit some of our key public outreach projects below:

A Point in Time is a 46-minute film on how archaeological research is conducted. Far Western Art Director and Producer Tammara Norton and Director Phil Gross recently completed this film for Nevada BLM. It has been shown on Vegas PBS Channel 10 and is available on the PBS streaming service.

In collaboration with  California State Parks and the Sierra State Parks Foundation, Far Western Art Director, Tammara Norton designed and fabricated underwater markers and ‘dive cards’ for three boats and two barges for the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail.

VIDEO: Gold, Water and Power, PG&E on the Stanislaus River 

California’s Gold Rush era water transport system would later play a critical role in PG&E’s hydroelectric system. (16 Minutes)

In the Time when Animals were PeopleIn the Time when Animals were People is a collection of traditional Yokut and Western Mono stories gathered by anthropologists from tribal Elders who could still remember the old times. Those times are gone, but the people and the stories remain.

Creating VyaCreating Vya: The Dream of Dry Farming in Long Valley, Nevada describes the rise and fall of the community of Vya with information on Northern Paiute lifeways, early explorers, cattle ranching, and the failed Long Valley Water Project. The book includes numerous photographs by John L. Henry.

Life on the RiverThe book Life on the River – The Archaeology of an Early Native American Culture explains archaeological techniques and discoveries at a Shasta County site, located on the Upper Sacramento River. It documents Wintu lifeways just before and during the arrival of Europeans into the area.

People of the TulesThe Long Road Traveled is a public-oriented document about the Cuyama Valley. The full digital document is available in online-magazine form here. See the 3D Visualization Gallery here.

People of the TulesPeople of the Tules: Archaeology and Prehistory of California’s Great Central Valley presents information about excavations that revealed evidence of environmental and cultural changes. An audio version is available for the visually impaired.

Written on the Land: 10,000 Years of Human History along Marsh CreekWritten on the Land: 10,000 Years of Human History along Marsh Creek. For thousands of years before the Spanish, the Mexicans, or the Americans entered the East Bay/Delta region of California, Native people lived in this beautiful place.

Mountain Harvest: The Use of Pinyon Nuts by the Paiute and Their Ancestors Near Sherwin Summit, California.Mountain Harvest: The Use of Pinyon Nuts by the Paiute and Their Ancestors Near Sherwin Summit, California.

 

Stealing the Sun Stealing the Sun presents an overview of the prehistory of the central Sierra Nevada foothills by combining archaeology and traditional Me-Wuk stories.

 

Pieces of the Puzzle: Archaeologists work along SR 49Looking for Pieces of the Puzzle is a seven-minute video of archaeologists at work along State Route 49, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of western Tuolumne County, California.

Step Back in Time! Archaeology and Prehistory in Sierra Valley Step Back in Time! Archaeology and Prehistory in Sierra Valley highlights work with the Washoe tribe to preserve one of the most important archaeological sites ever found in northern California.

Many Cultures, One LandMany Cultures, One Land, covers the prehistory and historical events that forever changed the lives of the Native peoples in the area.

 

China Lake Rock ArtView spectacular rock art found at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.