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To define history as only the written past erases not only years but, more importantly, people from our understanding of the past. A focus on written history means that most Americans who were denied access to literacy skills or who were left out of the archival record by elites lose much of their past.


Archaeological research has the potential to expand Colorado’s history beyond the 200-400 years that are recorded in writing and that disproportionately represent the people of European descent who produced the written records. Indigenous people occupied what is now Colorado about 13,000 years ago, while people of European descent first occupied southwestern Colorado about 250 years ago. If Colorado’s history is based primarily on Euro-American written records, then that history’s timeline is limited to only about 1.5 percent of the state’s human occupation, and entire groups of people are underrepresented or excluded. African Americans are one notable group that have been largely left out of the archival record. Archaeology can extend history and give a voice to these people.

Summary Themes

What is Not Archaeology?

Although archaeology is a broad and diverse field encompassing many specialties, there are many unrelated areas that are commonly confused with archaeology. Paleontology, a field concerned with animal and plant fossils, is often mistaken with archaeology. However, paleontology is a branch of geology that focuses on non-human remains as opposed to human culture, artifacts, and architectural  remnants. 

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