March 21, 2017
You might not associate spring break with digging for ancient artifacts, but that’s what anthropology students will be doing to experience the value of their city next week.
Thirteen students in ANTH 3180: Archaeology and Public Policy will spend spring break at prehistoric and historic sites around Colorado Springs, including Garden of the Gods and UCCS, from March 27-31.
The purpose of the week is for students to gain a foundational understanding of cultural resource management, according to Steven Segin, ANTH 3180 instructor.
Segin, who has taught the course for the last 12 years, said that the course is a hands-on training opportunity.
“It’s a technical kind of course where you get a real basic understanding of the different aspects that go into resource management,” he said.
The policy aspect of the course is devoted to navigating the tension between contemporary development projects and a concern for protecting the past, including management and preservation measures.
Students spend about 70 percent of the course outdoors learning the basics of site recording, site assessment, map reading and evaluating resource significance.
Segin hopes that students taking the course will gain a deeper understanding of the history that surrounds them every day and the work that archaeologists and historians do to preserve it.
“You get to find something and see something that no one has seen for thousands of years since it was deposited or buried. You get to be the first person to find that,” said Segin.
Although a lot of archaeological work can be searching through the leftovers of civilizations, these artifacts are valuable, as they increase our understanding of the past, according to Segin.
“Written history tells us one thing, and archaeology can either confirm that or give us some alternative theories and answers for why things happened,” he said.
“It’s looking at culture. Why did that culture change? Why did that civilization go extinct? Archaeology can answer some of these questions or pull back the veil of history a little bit and allow us to look at it with a different perspective.”
Individuals are often unaware of the many laws surrounding historic preservation and the potential impact that disregarding such laws can have, according to Segin. Those who disregard current laws may deny cultural groups from their history.
“You can’t just take everything and stick it in a museum, because that’s somebody’s ancestor, that’s somebody’s relative, that’s somebody’s history,” said Segin.
“A simple example is people who collect arrowheads. Now if you do that on your own land, that’s perfectly fine. But when you do it on public land, that’s a crime.”
Such activities can interfere significantly with the work of archaeologists and historians, as archaeologists lose important information that can help them make inferences about past cultures.
“When you take those things away and you take them out of their context, where they were placed in relationship to other things, that’s a piece of the puzzle that we lose,” said Segin.
An increased appreciation of the nature of archaeological study can help to guard against such loss, according to Segin.
“Often times, we erase traces of the past inadvertently. Sometimes it’s intentionally, and having an understanding of the process and all the work that goes into it gives people a deeper appreciation for history,” said Segin.