What is Archaeology?

By Savanna Agardy

What Exactly Is Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of past humans and the stuff they left behind. Many people think that archaeology is the study of dinosaurs, but that is not true. Archaeologists study things that people made and left behind. Objects made by past peoples, known as artifacts, include items used in everyday life and things that people threw out as trash (such as animal bones). Features are things that people built, such as a fireplace, irrigation canal, or underground house.

Utah’s Archaeology 

Every place in the world has archaeology. Utah has some of the most exciting and important archaeology in the world. Utah is home to over 100,000 archaeology sites! These are just the sites that have been found by archaeologists; there are many more out on the land that have not been recorded yet. 

Utah’s history started a long time ago–13,000 years ago to be exact! Most of that time, people lived as hunter-gatherers in the Paleoindian Period and Archaic Period. They traveled across the land with their families following seasonal sources of food and water. In the Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan Periods, Indigenous people started farming, which changed their lifestyles a lot. People lived in pithouses under the ground or in cliff dwellings and villages. After the farmers of the Formative Period migrated out of Utah or joined other groups, people started using horses and lived more nomadically again. This was called the Late Prehistoric Period. Once Europeans arrived in Utah, Native Americans, Euro-Americans, and immigrants from all over the world lived side by side during the Historic Period. They still made things and left behind artifacts and features, but the things they made look different because of European and other cultural influences. 

Download pdfs here Archaeology TimelineTimeline Key

Why Do Archaeology? 
Archaeologists study the history of people to learn more about who we are, where we came from, and what our future might be. Studying droughts and food shortages may help us prepare for similar events in the future. Archaeologists also help fill in gaps about our history, which is important to defining who we are today. Learn more about what archaeologists do all day.

Keep Exploring!

Return to the Archaeology page here.
Return to the I Love Utah History home page here.