Interpretation and Outreach
In order to decipher the meaning behind archaeological finds, archaeologists rely on investigative tools that help them figure out how and why a site was formed. Almost more important than the artifact itself is its context, or provenience- basically where an artifact is located in space and time. If you know where the artifacts come from, and how they relate to the other artifacts in the site, a story begins to emerge. The type and style of artifacts found associated together can indicate what the site was used for, for example, an abundance of slate tablets and pencils could suggest schoolhouse; tableware, chamberpots, and medicine bottles could suggest a household; hundreds of chert flakes and broken tools could indicate the location of a quarry. Once you get an idea of what was happening within a site, you can place that information into an even larger context to see how humans were influenced, or influencing, their larger environment. When all of the materials are analyzed and interpreted, the archaeologists can then share the results of their hard-earned data in the form of a report, article or book.
Time Team America provides outreach by way of our PBS primetime television programs, our field schools, and our website. Our Team, including our field school director, speak at numberous archaeology events around the country to help adult and young learners learn more about science, technology, math and engineering through archaeological methods.
Archaeologists excavate carefully so they can in effect, bring the site back with them to the lab. That’s because, if done right, people can study and learn from the site for many years to come. Artifacts and field notes are carefully analyzed and organized, and the research findings are reported on. Once a project is complete, artifacts are usually stored in museums, state curation facilities, or universities, which have carefully controlled environments tailored to long–term preservation of archaeological materials. However, although “the stuff” might sit in boxes, archaeologists are always looking for new and creative ways to share their findings with the public and other scholars. In addition to writing books, journal articles, and other literature, many archaeologists strive to engage the public directly with their research through museum displays, public talks, or educational outreach programs. Some important archaeological sites are in, or become, public parks, which allows visitors to share first hand in the history of a particular area. Across the nation archaeologists continue to work with state and federal agencies and other stakeholder to find creative ways to interpret cultural heritage for the public. To find out what is happening near you, Get Involved.