The MIAMO Archaeological Approach
Archaeology in North America has run into several barriers. Lack of money, limited access to ruins, and political, religious and ethical concerns have made the practice of archaeology in the United States very difficult.
- Archaeological digs are nearly impossible to fund. The work requires numerous people spending thousands of hours in the field and careful collection, documentation, transportation and preservation of everything that might be found at a site. University budgets are already stressed by the maintenance and storage costs of thousands of artifacts already uncovered and stored in warehouses across the country.
- Access to land where sites might be found has become more and more difficult. Private property owners such as ranchers and farmers are concerned about the safety of visitors and the disturbance of livestock. They are rarely inclined to allow digs and extensive ground disturbance. In addition, environmental laws must be considered whenever significant earth movement is undertaken. All of these concerns cost money.
- The past history of archaeology has had its share of treasure seekers who have no interest in science. Many sites have been pillaged to obtain artifacts that subsequently were sold. This illegal practice has resulted in damage to important sites and the loss of enormously valuable data to scientists.
- In recent years an ethical debate has grown over the excavation of ancient sites. In addition to structures, pottery, preserved food, weaved goods, and other artifacts, many sites have been found to also contain the remains of ancient North Americans. Understandably, because modern Native Americans believe that these remains are their ancestors, the practice of digging at sites for some people might be equated with grave robbing.
- Finally, the archaeological community has suggested many times that a sort of moratorium be implemented on digs. The idea is that future generations may develop better investigative techniques for studying sites and that digging sites now might disturb data that would be valuable in the future.
MIAMO Archaeology was created to overcome some of the barriers to progress in North American archaeological. Developed by Dr. Stephen Janes the methods are taken from geologic mapping. While archaeology typically focuses on a specific ruin and therefore a specific dig, Dr. Janes approaches archaeology on a much larger scale. He does not dig or disturb anything he finds. Nor does he collect artifacts. Instead his goal is to define the distribution of artifacts over vast tracks of land and to test hypotheses about the patterns he finds.
You can learn more about Dr. Janes on our contact page and at the MIAMO blog site at blog.miamo-archaeology.com. For now it is important to understand that the field techniques of geology are generally very different from those used in archaeology. Geologists are often trying to understand large scale processes associated with the evolution of the earth. Geologic mapping involves collecting data over large areas. In this way geologists develop new ideas about the formation of very large structures like continents and ocean basins. To collect this type of data means geologists must make observations on the move. Geologists generally can not spend a lot of time in the field inspecting a single rock exposure. They have to “map it and move on”.
MIAMO archaeology also makes observations on the move. We have spent a lot of time in the field learning to observe the shape of the terrain as we walk. The geologic discipline involved with studying earth shapes is called “geomorphology”. And we use the term “geomorph” to describe unique land shapes that are related to the location of ancient North American settlements and travel routes. In addition, we have found that careful observation of the surface geology and geomorphology of our survey areas tells us a lot about where we can expect to find archaeological sites.
Finally, we have discovered that there is a relationship between archaeological sites and geomorphs. This relationship tells us where ancient North Americans lived and traveled.