Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Archaeology: Your Ancestors' Artifacts

Last week on the genealogy librarians' list, members briefly discussed the potential value of archaeology books to their collections. The talk went on just long enough to remind me of one of my favorite crossover books, Robert Mazrim's The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln.

"Archaeology," he writes, "has a peculiar ability to enhance and also to challenge the written word, to uncover the little aspects of daily lifelong since passed. It also returns an authentic ghostliness to a landscape so flattened by the plow and by pavement." {3}

One not-so-little aspect uncovered by archaeology digs in frontier Illinois sites is that the early settlers 200 years ago were surprisingly well connected to urban centers of trade in the east and in Europe. "Objects discarded during the very first years of the territory include not only gunflints, knife blades, and butchered deer remains" -- all of which we might expect -- "but also English teacups, brass vest buttons, and French wine bottles." {96} These pioneers were not soloing in the wilderness; they were accompanied by families and tied back to civilization.

Robert Mazrim, The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Harold Henderson, "Archaeology: Your Ancestors' Artifacts," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 25 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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