According to the Society for American Archaeology:
Archaeology is the study of the ancient and recent human past through material remains. It is a subfield of anthropology, the study of all human culture. From million-year-old fossilized remains of our earliest human ancestors in Africa, to 20th century buildings in present-day New York City, archaeology analyzes the physical remains of the past in pursuit of a broad and comprehensive understanding of human culture.
Archaeology offers a unique perspective on human history and culture that has contributed greatly to our understanding of both the ancient and the recent past. Archaeology helps us understand not only where and when people lived on the earth, but also why and how they have lived, examining the changes and causes of changes that have occurred in human cultures over time, seeking patterns and explanations of patterns to explain everything from how and when people first came to inhabit the Americas, to the origins of agriculture and complex societies.
Unlike history, which relies primarily upon written records and documents to interpret great lives and events, archaeology allows us to delve far back into the time before written languages existed and to glimpse the lives of everyday people through analysis of things they made and left behind.
Archaeology is the only field of study that covers all times periods and all geographic regions inhabited by humans. It has helped us to understand big topics like ancient Egyptian religion, the origins of agriculture in the Near East, colonial life in Jamestown Virginia, the lives of enslaved Africans in North America, and early Mediterranean trade routes. In addition archaeology today can inform us about the lives of individuals, families and communities that might otherwise remain invisible.
Bringing it down locally to western Colorado and the Four Corners region, archaeology is the discovery, documentation, curation and protection of evidence of human occupation dating back as much as 13,000 years. On the short end of the spectrum, professionals define anything fifty years or older as being ‘historical’. With those dates in mind, 13,000 to 50 years, might be considered the age range of archaeology to be studied in our region.
There is nothing to say that the archaeological interests of our chapter have to be purely local; however, there is so much to see and learn in this area most of our focus is indeed, local to regional in scope.
It’s important to differentiate between archeology and paleontology. Paleontology, also a very common scientific as well as avocational study in western Colorado, is the study of what fossils tell us about the ecologies of the past, about evolution, and about our place, as humans, in the world. Locally paleontology is often thought of in the context of dinosaur bones.
Many places nearby or within a few hours’ drive of Grand Junction, archaeology and paleontology exist within sight of one another.