Preserving the Past for the Present and Future

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Logan Shetlar
Mrs. Deggner
Expository Writing 201
30 March 2012
Preserving the Past for the Present and Future
Many people have little to no knowledge about human’s prehistoric past, especially that of humans in the Americas. As you cruise down east bound Interstate 70 and make it through St. Louis, you start to drive by one of North America’s largest prehistoric city structures, Cahokia. According to the Cahokia Mounds Historical Site, this city covered six square miles, had 120 mounds, and was home to anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 people from the years 700 to 1400 AD (Keller). Cahokia use to be a major regional trade center with huge mounds that had large palaces for city rulers, plazas, different neighborhoods, and even gaming fields, but much of this has been lost from natural wear of the land and also human destruction. I-70, although a hugely important interstate nearly connecting coast to coast, cuts right through some of the city, and new housing developments slowly threaten the area (Ritterbush). This human destruction happens all over and continuously erases some of human history from right beneath our feet. Archaeological sites should be preserved in order to protect unwritten human history, create economical benefits, and teach future generations about the human past and allow for future studies. Much of the reason why many people do not realize there is even a problem with the destruction of archaeological sites is that the sites are prehistoric, meaning they date back to times before written records, and most people have not heard of the sites. People in charge of a building project, such as project developers, may not realize they are about to build on top of an ancient prehistoric site, which is why there has been a federal law that now requires an archaeologist to come out to check land that may be developed. An archaeologist job is to work in the field and scientifically record and recover any artifacts they may find, usually several feet in the ground. The archaeologist then records all their findings and takes the material items back to a lab where they are cleaned, processed, and recorded (Professional Archaeologist). Needing to hire an archaeologist from the State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO) inevitably costs money, which makes for a group of people who dislike the law and the idea of preserving sites. Costs vary from the size of the project and weather or not sites are found, and if the law is not followed, federal permits and money can be lost, along with additional fines. All of this can be problematic, and a possible setback in the building plans for the project developers, but it is a very important step (Getting the Archaeological Green Light). In an interview with Prof. Lauren Ritterbush, she told me about the Blue Earth Village, which she has personally worked at in the Manhattan area that has been nearly lost due to human developments. The Blue Earth Village, just east of Manhattan, Kansas, is an early Kansa Indian village dating back to the 1790s. Modern buildings here, such as houses and a cattle show barn, have covered much of the village that was there prior, but what little is left allows archaeologist a chance to research it and provide the Kansa Indian people with information about their ancestors. If SHPO had been in place when this area was being developed, archaeologists would have been able to excavate the area and record new information about the area. Many archaeological sites also provide economic benefits, such as tourism, to the areas around the world and here in the states. Egypt’s economy relies heavily on tourism, considering the country is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the pyramids, and other archaeological hot spots. In the year 2008, Egypt profited over 11.8 billion dollars from tourism in the country. Tourism is also responsible for nearly 12 percent of the labor force in Egypt, making these archaeological sites...
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