Farmers have always been important to archaeologists and there’s no where that is more evident in the US. The history is often buried beneath the fields where our crops are grown, and as agriculture becomes more mechanized so the risks to archaeological sites grows.
Farmers have traditionally been very cooperative with archaeologists in both excavating and helping preserve Native American sites. There are literally thousands of sites waiting to be explored, Indian mounds which may contain trash pits, post holes, walls and structures which made up Native American settlements from times gone past.
The mechanization is obviously a worry, with bigger machines offering a real risk of destroying artifact and sites, however many sites still remain safe, covered deep in the soil. THe process has really been happening since the 1950s were heavy equipment was increasingly used and involved digging deeper and deeper into the soil. Indeed sub-soil machinery certainly destroyed hundreds of sites – destroying some almost completely and tearing through once sacred burial grounds. The practice was common then but has increasingly been replaced by more sophisticated farming methods which represent less risk to sites.
There are still risks including practices like land levelling which although can transform the yields of farmland still destroy archaeological sites. It is though unusual to find an uncooperative farmers who are generally very supportive in trying to save finds and sites. It is of course a delicate balancing operation as farmers are trying to run businesses and slowing down or even stopping production is obviously going to have a large financial effect.
One useful initiative is from the Archaeological Conservancy which actively buys lots of tranches of land from farmers in order to preserve them. All across the US the organization hold titles for research and educational purposes, which legally enforces archaeologists rights to research on the plots. Most times both sides can come to an agreement, with the farmers simply farming and ploughing around the research areas. Although this is not ideal it does serve a useful precedent of mutual co-operation which is worth more than the odd loss of an outlying artifact.
If you’re interested in history and archaeology there is lots of useful and practical information on the US and UK media sites. One particularly worth checking out is on UK TV from the BBC, the website information is accessible to all but to watch the documentary programs outside the UK you’ll need to buy an IP address like this.
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