Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM
THE TRANSFORMATION OF GEOARCHAEOLOGY FROM A PRACTICE TO A DISCIPLINE
The history of archaeological geology is about its development over time, not only as it has been practiced or defined, but also how it has emerged as a community of scientists organized and connected in the pursuit of understanding the long-term relationships between humans and the environment. The terms “geoarchaeology” and “archaeological geology” have been used since the 1970s to designate this earth-science approach. By the 1970s, it had become clear that the geosciences were essential to applying an empirical, contextual, and interdisciplinary approach to interpreting the archaeological record. Since the 1970s, opinions have consolidated regarding the importance of a natural science perspective in archaeology and the value of geoarchaeology. Geoarchaeology has been blessed by a cadre of “true-believers” who have connected the strong but loose ends of the geosciences and archaeology and woven them into a resilient, dynamic field of interdisciplinary science. A more formal set of institutional arrangements has emerged since the 1970s that provide mentoring and training in the skills needed to practice geoarchaeology, opportunities to interact, to compare experiences, to disseminate and critique research, and a sense of intellectual tradition. Professional groups and publications dedicated to geoarchaeology were established during the last part of the 20th century. The enhanced visibility of geological applications to archaeology led to a short article co-authored by George Rapp, Reuben Bullard, and Claude Albritton titled “Geoarchaeology?” in 1974. The Archaeological Geology Division of the GSA was formed in 1977 with Rapp serving as Chair. The first volume of Geoarchaeology: An International Journal was published in 1986. In 1996, the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) put out a call for the formation of interest groups. Rolfe Mandel served as the first Chair of the Geoarchaeology Interest Group from 1997-98. Academic programs have also been established. By the early part of the 21st century, there were several officially designated master’s and bachelor’s degree programs in geoarchaeology. In retrospect, it was during the 1970s and 1980s that the practice of applying the earth sciences to the study of the human past had reached a threshold and the disciplineof geoarchaeology had been established.