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.
Gold, Water and Power, PG&E on the Stanislaus River is a 16 minute video covering how California’s Gold Rush era water transport system would later play a critical role in PG&E’s hydroelectric system.
Looking 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.
Breaking 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.
A Point in Time presents how archaeological research is conducted. The film shows archaeologists working in Lincoln County, Nevada and some of the collaboration involved in research projects.