A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Please note that while links have been updated where possible, this article was published in 1997 and many websites have changed or are no longer available.
Archaeological web sites are proliferating as government agencies, universities, national magazines, and television shows take advantage of the comparatively low cost of publishing on line. These web sites range from educational, written by archaeologists with user access to primary and secondary sources and illustrations; to full site reporting; to entertainment, with minimal text but great attention to colorful graphics; to indexes listing archaeological resources. Search engines permit users to access these sites quickly and simply.
The opening or home page of a web site usually has introductory material describing the sort of information the site carries and any special directions for navigating it. The site is divided into sections whose titles appear in a list of links on the home page. If the web site is maintained on a computer, or server, in another country, you may be able to switch to a "mirror" site in the United States, which will save downloading time. I viewed the following web sites on Macintosh computers with Netscape 2.02 using both 14.4 and 28.8 Kbps modems. Uniform resource locators (URLs), or addresses, are subject to change, and web sites themselves are sometimes updated or even removed from the web. The following sites are concerned with New World archaeology. Our March/April column will feature those dealing with the Old World.
Links to the Past from the National Park Service (NPS) provides information on archaeological and historical sites within our national parks. The opening page currently offers a link to an on-line article, "Ancient Architects: The Moundbuilders of the Lower Mississippi Delta," about elaborate earthworks built in the lower Mississippi 800 years ago. New features will be posted every one to two months, and the previous ones will be archived. The "Collected Heritage" button connects to a list of databases, inventories, and descriptions of collections. The National Archeological Database (NADB) consists of three modules. NADB-Reports is a bibliographic inventory of some 125,000 reports on archaeological projects in the United States. The NADB-Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act is an inventory of documents, regulations, notices of inventory completion, and notices of intent to repatriate. The NADB-Multiple Attribute Presentation System is a library of maps made with geographic information systems (GIS) showing national distributions of cultural resources. "Get Involved" lists volunteer opportunities offered by the NPS and other groups and travel itineraries to historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
In a joint project with the U.S. committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the NPS lists the 22 World Heritage Sites in the U.S. Blue dots locate the sites on satellite images of the lower 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Articles on the individual sites are available. There are also links to ICOMOS's cultural resource journal World Heritage Review and an Internet Resource Guide for Heritage Conservation, Historic Preservation, and Archeology [Old site not available as of 11/22/04 - see www.ncptt.nps.gov], which has further links to historical societies, state historic preservation officers and archaeologists, international organizations, and national agencies.
The web site of the National Park Service Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida, details the 1989 and 1990 excavations at Andersonville National Historic Site, a Civil War prisoner-of-war camp in Georgia. Pictures of the excavation showing posthole stains are paired with historic photographs showing remnants of a stockade wall and prison buildings. Excavators also found an escape tunnel. The text points out where excavated evidence differs from historical accounts. In general, NPS web sites are informative, clearly written, and well illustrated.
Chaco Canyon [www.chaco.com/park/ - not available as of 11/22/04], maintained by Chaco Communications, a California-based software company, offers a wide range of material on Chaco Canyon and Anasazi culture. In addition to pages on the company's software products, this site contains links to a three-dimensional model of Chetro Ketl Great Kiva created by the department of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It also has the text of articles by Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Peggy Gaudy on Anasazi culture and by Loretta Neumann, president of the consulting firm Conservation, Environment and Historic Preservation, Inc., on Chaco's being named to the 100 World's Most Endangered Monuments list. Other articles cover architecture, petroglyphs, roads, outlying settlements, a history of the exploration of Chaco, and photographs of the canyon.
The Jamestown Rediscovery Project opens with the exclamation "We Found the Fort!!" and details the recent identification of the remains of James Fort, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, built in 1607. A link to current exhibits reveals a list of artifacts recovered. One of the choices, arms and armor, is a drawing of two men in seventeenth-century fighting regalia with items discovered at the site shaded. A click on one of these items links to a photo of the artifact and a description of its use. There are also sections on trade with Powhatan, chief of the Pamunkey tribe, and coins and their use in dating the site. A brief history of Jamestown, a time line, site plans, and maps are available.
CSS Hunley Update [www.cla.sc.edu/sciaa/hunley1.html - not available as of 11/22/04] tells the story of this Confederate submarine, the first sub ever to sink an enemy ship. Underwater photos of the remains of the H.L. Hunley, a diagram illustrating its design, an 1863 painting of the sub at Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, by Conrad Wise Chapman, and computer-generated images suggesting what the Hunley may have looked like in action are accessible from the home page. The site is maintained by the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina and also includes drafts of the institute's proposals to the federal government and the Navy, which owns the Hunley, for excavation and conservation of the sub. The state of South Carolina will retain custody of the sub in perpetuity. [see www.hunley.org]
Florida Archaeology Underwater Archaeological Preserves describes the state's five underwater preserves, with illustrations of shipwrecks, including two eighteenth-century Spanish wrecks, with a short history of each, photos of excavations, and directions to the sites and related museums.
The Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University maintains a web site with information on its excavation of the sunken city of Port Royal, Jamaica. There are also links to information about the institute's print publications.
Feathered Serpent Pyramid: Archaeology of Teotihuacan, Mexico, offers straightforward coverage of the excavations of the third largest monument at Teotihuacán, which flourished A.D. 1 to 750. Its many illustrations explain the archaeologists' points and are not just for decoration. Footnotes are included. Research history, architecture, iconography, graves, and offerings are discussed; pages on osteology, looting, and a chronology will be added. The map of the web site at the end of each page makes navigation easy.
Belize River Archaeological Settlement Survey Project/El Pilar is intended to attract tourists to the El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna in Belize, but it also presents substantial information about ongoing research there. Paintings of what the site may have looked like during the Classic period, a site map, and a photo of visitors on a tour accompany a description of the geography and archaeology of the site, which was occupied from the Middle Preclassic until the Early Postclassic (1000 B.C.-A.D. 1250). El Pilar is on the Belize-Guatemala border, and plans are under way to establish a similar preserve on the Guatemalan side. This web site is maintained by El Pilar excavator Anabel Ford of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
MayaQuest [www.mecc.com/mayaquest.html - not available as of 11/22/04] includes text and images from a bicycle expedition whose members explore Maya sites, speak with archaeologists and modern Maya, and communicate their experiences to middle-school classrooms. There have been two MayaQuest expeditions, the first in 1995 dealing with the collapse of Maya civilization, the second in 1996 with its rise. The third, from March 3 to April 12, will investigate four kinds of rain forest and how the Maya, ancient and modern, live in it. The core on-line program is available on the web at no charge; students to question Maya specialists such as Linda Schele of the University of Texas, Austin, and David Freidel of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and vote on where the team travels. A $95 classroom subscription provides teachers and classrooms with a printed study guide, technological support, and direct communication with the team. In the past these activities were carried out by e-mail, but this year's expedition will communicate with students in real time with live conferences over the web. The MayaQuest team opens each "team update" from the field with a list of statistics: their location (using a global positioning system); number of miles biked since the last update; and what animals they have spotted. The MayaQuest site is written by team members, mainly journalist and cyclist Dan Buettner and University of Texas graduate student Julie Acuff. Consulting archaeologists make guest appearances, and recommendations of books are provided for users who want to learn more. The "kid profiles" section features interviews with children living near the key archaeological sites, giving American students a glimpse of their lives.
National Geographic Online publishes material related to stories in National Geographic Magazine. The object here is entertainment, not enlightenment. "Treasure from the Silver Bank," an article on the Concepción, a seventeenth-century Spanish ship that was carrying between one and four million silver pesos weighing as much as 140 tons, jewelry, pearls, emeralds, and gold dust when it wrecked off the coast of the Dominican Republic in 1641, appeared in the magazine's July 1996 issue. Silver Bank, now available through a link on the web site's table of contents, offers virtual-reality walk-throughs of a reconstruction of the ship; cutaway diagrams of its decks showing where the treasure had been stowed; and a map describing the Concepción's final voyage through the Caribbean with links describing the ship's probable actions at each of its ports of call. This material expands on the information in the magazine article, written by treasure salvor Tracy Bowden, whose contract with the government of the Dominican Republic guarantees him half of the Concepción's wealth. Sections of the site are devoted to pictures of its coins and jewelry. A link from the Silver Bank web site attempts to sell coins and other objects, violating all tenets of ethical archaeology.
Ice Treasures of the Inca: An Interactive Expedition with Johan Reinhard, also available through the National Geographic Online table of contents, covers the September 1995 discovery of a 500-year-old Inka mummy named "Juanita" on Mt. Ampato, Peru. Reinhard is a senior research fellow at the Mountain Institute in Franklin, West Virginia. The television program Nova's Ice Mummies of the Inca chronicles a second expedition to the Andes led by Reinhard last September. Reinhard, a BBC camera operator, and an on-line producer for Nova traveled to Mt. Sara Sara, where they found another mummy. This page was written mostly by the on-line producer and then posted from Peru via satellite. Also intended to entertain, the text is morbid and sensationalistic, emphasizing the "mysterious" aspect of searching for a mummy while invoking Inka gods and portraying the modern inhabitants of the region as superstitious and backward. Digital photographs of artifacts accompanying the mummy, including shawl pins, statuettes, and clothing, were sent to Bill Conklin, research associate at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., for comments that were posted on the site. Well-funded, well-publicized projects should carry more of such information.
To find a New World web site that interests you or answers a particular question, try the following indexes, which offer links to other sites.
ArchNet: the World Wide Web Virtual Library for Archaeology has links to web sites covering everything from site tours and descriptions to academic and popular associations, university departments of archaeology and anthropology worldwide, and curation and repatriation. Users may also browse a list of topics, including archeometry, lithics, site files and tours, botanical remains, electronic course material, ceramics, mapping and geographical information systems, and method and theory.
Directory of Archaeological Societies and Newsletters has addresses and telephone numbers for local, national, and international organizations.
A Guide to Underwater Archaeology Resources on the Internet [fiat.gslis.utexas.edu:80/~trabourn/underwater.html - not available as of 11/22/04] lists institutes and departments of underwater archaeology, museums and sites, opportunities to volunteer, and links to pages related to maritime history.
Southwestern Archaeology has links to archaeologists and archaeological sites in Arizona and the Southwest, and an interesting section on "anti-archaeology" devoted to stamping out pot-hunting and questionable archaeological practices.
World Wide E-mail Directory of Anthropologists is a searchable directory of anthropologists' e-mail addresses.