Hunter-gatherers and Ethnoarchaeology. For several reasons, not the least of which was Jennings’s departure from the University of Utah in 1978 and the burgeoning field of CRM archaeology, field research in the state since the late 1970s has not been dominated by the University of Utah, although that institution continues to be highly influential in terms of theoretical direction. CRM firms, federal agencies, and especially the Antiquities Section in the Utah Division of State History became more actively involved in archaeological field work. Since 1973 the Antiquities Section has been directed by David B. Madsen, whose position and publications have made him a central figure in Utah archaeology over the past two decades. Madsen’s interests in paleoenvironmental reconstruction and subsistence, especially during the first years of his appointment, resulted in a greater emphasis on those topics, especially in Fremont studies. Fremont Perspectives, published by the Antiquities Section and edited by Madsen in 1980, was an important result of Madsen’s influence.
In 1978 James F. O Connell joined the faculty at the University of Utah. In the early 1980s O’Connell collaborated with Madsen in coediting Man and Environment in the Great Basin, an important synthesis of Great Basin paleoenvironments and cultural history, and in the final chapter (coauthored with Kevin Jones and Steven Simms), called for a different theoretical emphasis in Great Basin research – evolutionary ecology. This new interest was based on O’Connell’s interest in hunter-gatherer studies and ethnoarchaeology resulting from his field work with Australian aborigines and, later, the Adza people of Africa. Several of O’Connell’s students, Steven Simms at Utah State University, Duncan Metcalf at Utah, and Kevin Jones at the Antiquities Section, have brought this theoretical perspective and interest in middle range issues (for example, butchering practices, transport decisions, and site structure analysis) to studies of hunter-gatherer behavior generally. These interests have, since the mid-1980s, dominated academic research in the state, although some, such as Joel Janetski (at BYU), who studied under both Jennings and O’Connell at the University of Utah, bridge the interests with both culture-historical and ecological research.
The interest in hunters and gatherers and middle range studies continues in Utah to the benefit of our understanding of the past. Research by Simms and Janetski on late prehistoric hunter-gatherers along the Wasatch Front, for example, has provided important data on that heretofore undescribed period and the transition from farming to hunting and gathering at about A.D. 1300. Much of the contract archaeology being done in the state in the 1990s reflects a renewed interest in hunter-gatherers generally, a lifeway that persisted in Utah for at least 8,000 years prior to the Fremont and several centuries thereafter.
Crm and Agency Archaeology. Cultural Resource Management archaeology in Utah has its roots in salvage projects like Glen Canyon and initially was performed solely by university-affiliated archaeologists. The proliferation of contract work related to oil and coal exploration and federally mandated management work from the 1970s on, however, has supported many private contracting firms and university contracting offices at BYU, U of U, Southern Utah State University, and Utah State University. Beyond providing more jobs for archaeologists and vastly increasing the amount of archaeological data reported, CRM projects have, on occasion, resulted in other benefits to the public, such as the construction of visitors centers or museums to present and interpret project findings. Examples include centers at Anasazi State Park at Boulder, built following the excavations at Coombs Village during the Glen Canyon project, and Fremont Indian State Park south of Richfield, which was built to house and display the collections excavated at nearby Five Finger Ridge and other Fremont sites in Clear Creek Canyon. Visitors centers at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding and Hovenweep National Monument east of Blanding were also constructed as a result of archaeological research at adjacent ruins.
Since the mid-1970s the number of agency archaeologists – both state and federal – has grown slowly but steadily. Initially, the primary activity of agency archaeologists was to identify and manage (protect) cultural resources on their lands. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, federal archaeologists have increasingly encouraged research through cooperative agreements with university archaeologists and have emphasized public participation on these and other projects. The emphasis on public-oriented archaeology, especially by federal agencies, has led to increased funding for publications and educational programs for schoolchildren.
The increase in the number of professionals doing archaeology in the state resulted in the establishment of the Utah Professional Archaeological Council (UPAC) in 1980 to monitor and encourage high standards of professional work and to increase preservation efforts, especially through legislation. Richard N. Holmer, then the contracting archaeologist at the University of Utah, was elected the first president. Since its inception, UPAC has played an ever-increasing role in politics by participating in writing and reviewing legislation relative to antiquities and by playing watchdog on preservation issues. One of the more important changes came in 1992 with the Antiquities Protection Act, which prohibited the sale of antiquities obtained on state land, required State Lands and Forestry departments to manage archeological sites, and contained a state reburial law for human remains.
Public and Avocational Archaeology. Archaeology has always been supported by active non-professionals or amateurs and Utah archaeology is no exception. The efforts of Don Maguire of Ogden in the 1890s have already been mentioned, but, more recently, amateurs such as Bud Peterson of Logan, Francis Hassell of Ogden, Robert and James Bee of Provo, John Hutchings of Lehi, Leo Thorne of Vernal, and Eldon “Doc” Dorman of Price, among others often collaborated with professionals in various capacities.
Amateur interests were formalized in 1962 with the founding of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society (USAS), with support from Jennings. From the outset, USAS was a statewide organization with chapters in various communities, a structure that continues to the present. Its newsletter, Utah Archaeology, served as a means to communicate research findings to the amateur community. During the late 1960s membership lagged, but in the mid-1980s USAS was revitalized through the joint efforts of David Madsen and amateur George Tripp of Salt Lake City. Importantly, as new chapters were formed, professionals either from universities or from state or federal agencies stepped forward to act as advisors and to identify and coordinate productive group projects. As a consequence, USAS membership boomed. Membership in 1990 was over 400 in ten chapters scattered throughout the state. In 1988 Utah Archaeologywas reconceptualized as an annual state journal supported by UPAC, USAS, and the Division of State History, and edited jointly by a representative from UPAC and one from USAS. The founding editors were Joel Janetski (UPAC) and Steve Manning (USAS). In its new, more formal format the journal has been widely accepted by professionals and amateurs as an important source of information about local archaeology.
Utah archeology in the 1990s is a dynamic and highly diverse field, dramatically different from what it was in the early part of this century when professional work began. At that time practitioners were few, and the literature on human prehistory in the state would barely fill a shelf. Today, archaeologists are employed by every major land managing agency and university in the state, and publications on Utah archaeology would fill rooms. A chronological framework was established by the 1950s and patterns of subsistence and settlement have been described for much of the state. Archaeologists are now building on this foundation to explore issues of economics, group interaction, and regional diversity, as well as provide explanations for the ebb and flow of cultural change over the past 10,000 years of human presence in the area. The past remains elusive, but Utah is fortunate as it continues to attract some of the best minds in the field to tell the story of its complex and intrinsically fascinating history and prehistory.
Archaeology’s greatest challenge at the end of the twentieth century has not changed since the 1930s when an alarmed Elmer Smith drew attention to the incessant looting of archaeological sites around the state. Vandalism has, in fact, escalated over the past fifty years despite the efforts of many preservation-minded citizens. Without better protection of our precious and irreplaceable surviving cultural resources, much information and understanding about the history of the native peoples and early settlers of Utah will certainly be lost.