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Arkansas Archeology Month
- March 2011 -

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Theme: Archeology of Conflict

The 2011 Arkansas Archeology Month theme is Archeology of Conflict, which aligns with the first-year observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Among the many subjects for study that archeologists pursue, one that is rapidly growing is that of “conflict archeology.” Its most obvious sites are historic battlefields, and military encampments and forts. But the field of study is broader than just military engagements, as archeologists study sites associated with conflicts of many sorts. Included in these studies are the search for evidence of prehistoric warfare and its impacts throughout communities, racial and cultural conflicts, settlement disputes, and workplace violence. Archeologists studying conflict may look for evidence of defensive structures, trauma on skeletal remains, burning, and kinds of settlement patterns. Geophysical techniques have been employed to see troop movements and activities on battlefields.

Archeologists using metal detectors in Cox's field at Pea Ridge Battlefield, 2003. Courtesy of NPS

Pea Ridge

The National Park Service has been active in using archeological techniques on a number of their battlefield sites. One of the best known is that of the Battle of Little Bighorn, where archeological investigations were used to interpret specific elements of the battle and led to a reconsideration of the documentary and oral record. For more information on the archeology at Little Bighorn, click here.

Closer to home, archeology has also aided interpretation at the Civil War battlefields of Pea Ridge, in northern Arkansas, and Wilson’s Creek, in Missouri, where many Arkansans fought and died. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), archeologists mapped the position of individual artifacts in relation to physical features and tested ideas based on historical accounts. For more information on the archeology at Pea Ridge and Wilson’s Creek, click here.

In 2011, the Arkansas Archeological Survey will begin a geophysical survey at Prairie Grove Battlefield, in northwest Arkansas, to locate major battlefield features in order to enhance the interpretation of the site beyond historical documents and ensure preservation of battlefield features. Specific elements of interest include the Borden, Morton, and Rogers homesteads, Aday post office, burial trenches, and the Cane Hill-Fayetteville road. For information on other archeological research at Prairie Grove Battlefield, click here. For information about Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, click here.

For a broader view on conflict archeology, the SAA Archaeological Record, published by the Society for American Archaeology, presented a special forum on conflict archeology in the September 2010 issue. To read the six articles in this forum, you can access the publication on-line by clicking here.

Ideas for Archeology Month Activities

  • Visit a Civil War battlefield.
  • Read about the archeology at National Park sites and make a report to your class.
  • Have your library display books about archeology.
  • Read a Civil War-era diary; discuss how people lived during the war.
  • Visit a museum; discuss how tools, weapons, etc., were similar or different from those of today.


More ideas for Archeology Month activities can be found in our Archives (below).


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Copyright 2010 Arkansas Archeological Survey, Revised - November 2010
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