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Abstract

As in Europe, in North America the origins of archaeological geology stemmed from discoveries of artifacts and fossil mammal bones together, and the bearing of such associations on the antiquity of humans in the New World. After 1870 the expansion of American and Canadian federal government surveys into the western portions of North America fostered a tradition of geologists undertaking archaeological field studies as a contingent part of their primary work. This informal collaboration ended around the turn of the century (with a few notable exceptions), as both sciences crystallized into more strictly defined fields. Debate over the antiquity of humans in the New World continued into the 1920s, only ending when definitive geological and paleontological evidence was presented to date artifacts to the end of the last glaciation.

While the initial link between archaeology and geology in North America concerned the question of human entry, other fields of research during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century included petrography of stone artifacts as a means of determining their origin, and geomorphic studies of archaeological sites as an indication of landform modification and environmental change. From such “informal” interdisciplinary research, often accomplished by individual initiative, the connection between geology and archaeology grew, slowly in the pre-World-War-II period and almost explosively in postwar decades due to a general realization by archaeologists of the natural environment’s importance in understanding cultural development.

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