History of Archaeology II American Archaeology in the 18th and 19th Centuries
18th Century American Archaeolgy • In 1784, while a member of congress, Thomas Jefferson excavated a mound on his estate of Monticello in Virginia to find out how it was built.
19th Century American Archaeology Large mounds and other archaeological monuments were encountered by European Americans during the westward expansion of the country These were attributed to a vanished race of “mound builders,” e.g. by Caleb Atwater in 1820. Enon Mound, Ohio
In 1848 Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis publish Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, presenting the results of the excavation of 200 mounds. • 1879 John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) founds the Bureau of American Ethnology as a division of the Smithsonian Institution. • 1881 Cyrus Thomas (1825-1910) is recruited by Powell to investigate the mound builder question. Powell and Thomas knew each other from the Illinois Natural History Society.
Powell had worked in geology, and Powell in entomology. Both had also done work in ethnology.
Thomas mined the work of a predecessor and also undertook the investigation of 2000 mounds, recovering 40,000 artifacts. He published his results in two reports in 1888 and 1894, concluding that a the ancestors of native Americans had built the mounds. • In 1879 John Wesley Powell went on an expedition to observe the residents of Zuñi pueblo in southern New Mexico. He took with him a very young prodigy – Frank Hamilton Cushing (1857-1900).
Cushing excavated a site near Zuñi called Los Muertos. He applied his knowledge about Zuñi culture to interpret the site and its finds. • This approach is called the direct historical approach