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Setting the Agenda for American Archaeology

The National Research Council Archaeological Conferences of 1929, 1932, and 1935

Edited and with an introduction by Michael J. O'Brien and R. Lee Lyman

Publication Year: 2001

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

This collection elucidates the key role played by the National Research Council seminars, reports, and pamphlets in setting an agenda that has guided American archaeology in the 20th century.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the fascination that Americans had for the continent's prehistoric past was leading to a widespread and general destruction of archaeological evidence. In a drive toward the commercialization of antiquities, amateur collectors and "pot hunters" pillaged premier and lesser-known sites before the archaeological record could be properly investigated and documented. Adding to the problem was a dearth of professionals and scholars in the field to conduct professional investigations and to educate the public about the need for preservation and scientific research methods.

In stepped the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, the Committee on State Archaeological Surveys. The CSAS initiated an enormously successful outreach program to enlist the aid of everyday citizens in preserving the fragile but valuable prehistoric past. Meetings held in St. Louis, Birmingham, and Indianapolis provided nuts-and-bolts demonstrations by trained archaeologists and laid out research agendas that both professionals and amateurs could follow.

Setting the Agenda contains the complete reports of the three NRC conferences, a short publication on the methods and techniques for conducting archaeological surveys, and a guide for amateur archaeologists. An extensive introduction by the editors sets these documents in context and provides insight into the intentions of the NRC committee members as they guided the development of American archaeology.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xv

One of the lesser-known aspects of Americanist archaeology is the substantial role played by the National Research Council during the 1920S and 1930S. Our use of the term "lesser-known" is not meant to imply that the role of the National Research Council (NRC) has gone unreported (see Griffin 1976a, 1985; Guthe 1952, 1967) but rather that its critical importance in shaping the course and complexion of Americanist archaeology ...

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pp. 1-83

The creation of the National Research Council (NRC) in 1916 reflected a growing concern that the United States was ill-prepared to enter a war into which it was inexorably being pulled. The council's express purpose was to assist the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which had been signed into existence by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in advancing the cause of knowledge and advising the federal government on matters of science and technology. From its inception ...

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1. Report of the Conference on Midwestern Archaeology, St. Louis, 1929

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pp. 85-206

The Committee on State Archmological Surveys of the National Research Council has been active for several years in promoting the conservation and scientific study of the prehistoric Indian sites scattered through the states bordering on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The appalling destruction of these sites by individuals ignorant or careless of their value, and by commercial exploiters, has extinguished much valuable historical evidence. ...

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2. Conference on Southern Pre-History, Birmingham, 1932

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pp. 207-331

The Conference on Southern Pre-History held at Birmingham, Alabama, on December 18,19, and 20, 1932, was called for the purposes of reviewing the available information on the pre-history of the southeastern states, discussing the best methods of approach to archaeology in this region and its general problems, and developing closer cooperation through the personal contacts of the members of the conference. ...

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3. The Indianapolis Archaeological Conference, 1935

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pp. 333-427

During recent years the amount of data relating to the archaeological cultures of the northern Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes region has grown considerably, due in large measure to the increased field and laboratory research within this area. The attempts to define the several cultures and to determine their relationships demonstrated the need for a conference of the students actively concerned with the archaeological problems of this area to establish, if possible, a uniform methodology and a greater correlation ...

Appendix 1. State Archaeological Surveys: Suggestions in Method and Technique

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pp. 429-453

Appendix 2. Guide Leaflet for Amateur Archaeologists

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pp. 455-467


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pp. 469-483

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313531
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817310844

Page Count: 386
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 772460338
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Setting the Agenda for American Archaeology

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Subject Headings

  • Archaeology -- Research -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on State Archaeological Surveys.
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