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Preface and Acknowledgments 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 has perhaps not been given the place in the history of the discipline that it deserves. And yet, it really wasn't the NRC itself that played the critical role but rather the archaeologists affiliated with it-persons such as Roland B. Dixon, A. V. Kidder, Frederick W. Hodge, Clark Wissler, and Carl E. Guthe. Their vehicle for plotting the future course of archaeology in the United States, especially in the Midwest and Southeast, was the Committee on State Archaeological Surveys (CSAS), which was organized in 1920 under the newly created Division of Anthropology and Psychology within the NRC. For 17 years, until it was abolished in June 1937, the CSAS labored to bring a sense of professionalism to the manner in which archaeology was being conducted in the United States. Few graduate programs in archaeology existed in the 1920S and 1930S, and those that did-first at Harvard, Chicago, Pennsylvania, California, and Columbia and eventually at Yale and Michigan-had not turned out enough archaeologists to meet the curricular needs of private and public colleges and universities, which increasingly were offering courses not only in prehistory but also in such practical aspects as excavation and artifact analysis. For example, at our own institution, the University of Missouri, archaeology was taught by a historian of the ancient world and by a soci- ologist. Of even more urgency was the fact that a nation's fascination with the past was leading to a rapid destruction of archaeological sites and the commercialization of antiquities. Neither phenomenon was entirely new in the 1920S, but the escalation of wholesale looting that occurred in the eastern United States during the early decades of the twentieth century, together with the upward spiral in commercial value of archaeological objects, finally reached such a level that the problem could no longer be ignored by those with a professional commitment to understanding the past. Something had to be done to awaken in the public a sense for preserving the archaeological record. But professional archaeologists had a bigger problem than simply educating the general public about the scientific value of the archaeological record and why it should be protected. By the late 1920S every state had at least one museum or historical society engaged in some form of archaeological exploration, and countless towns and cities had societies of one kind or another that had been organized ostensibly for "scientific" purposes. Societies in the larger cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C., counted professional archaeologists among their ranks, but those in the smaller cities, although composed of learned individuals, had no guiding voices on how to explore the past without destroying the very record being examined. As a result, fieldwork was oftentimes little more than a pot-hunting expedition used to fill the shelves and curio cabinets of a society's members. For the same reason-lack of expertise-much of the fieldwork carried out by local museums and historical societies was not much better. Faced with this growing problem, professional archaeologists had several options, one of which was to do nothing and hope the problem would go away. There was, however, little likelihood of that happening. Another option was to point out deficiencies in the work being done and hope that people were wise enough to listen to those who supposedly were experts on the matter. This would not have worked either. It didn't help matters that most professional archaeologists of the period had been trained in the Northeast and that the majority of the destruction of the archaeological record was taking place in the South and Midwest. The Civil War was but a distant memory in the Northeast, but this was not true in the South. The last thing members of a local southern archaeological society wanted to see was a carpetbagger archaeologist from a northeastern institution telling them how to excavate a site or to keep track of the artifacts they were collecting. x PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS There was only one solution that might work, and that was to attempt...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817313531
Related ISBN
9780817310844
MARC Record
OCLC
772460338
Pages
386
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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