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Archeology as a Catalyst for Community Understanding

Ephesus, an ancient city.

Traditionally, archaeology has been seen as a discipline that uncovers the past through the study of artifacts. While it's true that archaeology is a scientific field dedicated to interpreting the remains of past human cultures, it has evolved beyond its historical role. Through excavation, analysis of artifacts, and the study of ancient landscapes, archaeologists not only piece together the stories of societies that have long faded into history but also contribute to a broader comprehension of human development and the complex relationship between culture and environment. Over the last couple of decades, archaeology has transformed into a powerful tool for connecting communities and addressing societal issues.

Jessica Ericson excavating a unit in Colorado.

Let's journey beyond the excavation pits and delve into archaeology's true potential. It's not merely about collecting artifacts to tell stories about the past; it's about building bridges among communities. Take, for instance, the Moundville Archaeological Park in Alabama. This park, home to a pre-Columbian American Indian site occupied by the Mississippian culture from approximately A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1450, serves as an excellent example. The park has played a vital role in connecting the local community with their Indigenous heritage, fostering cultural tourism, and addressing societal issues like poverty and unemployment. Jobs for local residents, economic stimulation through tourism, and educational programs for local schools have all contributed to promoting awareness of Indigenous history and culture in the area. Archaeology, in this context, becomes a cultural ambassador, revealing historic threads that connect diverse communities. This shift in archaeology is palpable as it transforms from a study of the past into a dynamic force for social change.

A view of the archaeological site at Moundville Archaeological Park from the top of Mound B looking toward Mound A and the plaza. Courtesy of Altairisfar - Own work, Public Domain,

The beauty of archaeology lies not just in the artifacts but in the stories that emerge behind them. Storytelling becomes a powerful tool when personal narratives are intertwined with historical findings. These stories humanize our past, help break down stereotypes, and foster empathy. It's not just about finding epic artifacts and ruins; it's about the people who lived and loved.

Friends in nature.

Because of this unique focus, the archaeological lens extends beyond history books, shining a light on systemic issues like racism and white supremacy. Understanding the roots of these issues makes archaeology a catalyst for conversation and awareness. It becomes a journey of self-reflection as we uncover the echoes of our past.

Archaeology is not some nebulous science shrouded in mystery, done behind closed doors. It's intricately connected to communities, bringing people from different classes and backgrounds together. Imagine local neighborhoods actively participating in an excavation or preservation work, feeling a sense of pride and ownership over their shared history. This is a recipe for empathy and unity.

At Community Connections, we wholeheartedly believe that people come first. In all the dirt and fragments of our past, we discover more than just artifacts - we find connections. Archaeology, when embraced as a tool for community building, has the transformative power to create a world where understanding and empathy prevail. We're shaping an inclusive future for us all.

Jasmine (left) and Jess (right).

Curious to dive deeper? You can support initiatives that use archaeology as a force for social impact or explore our past blogs on our community projects like archaeological survey at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, The Guardians of Historic Lakewood: A Citizen Archaeology Program, or International Archaeology Day every year in October.

Let's continue building connection and rewriting the narrative of our shared humanity. Subscribe now to stay updated. See you in two weeks!

Jasmine & Jess (J&J) 🌳

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Hernandez, C.L. Social impact: Archaeology isn’t just about the past.

Huvila, Isto, Dallas, Costis, Toumpouri, Marina and Enqvist, Delia Ní Chíobháin. "Archaeological Practices and Societal Challenges" Open Archaeology, vol. 8, no. 1, 2022, pp. 296-305.

Moundville Archaeological Park.

Ortman, S.G. 2019. A new kind of relevance for archaeology, Frontiers.

Roberts, H., Gale, J. and Welham, K. 2020 A Four Stage Approach to Community Archaeology, illustrated with case studies from Dorset, England, Internet Archaeology 55.

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