Archaeology of the Americas

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The archaeology of the Americas is the study of the archaeology of North America (Mesoamerica included), Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This includes the study of pre-historic/Pre-Columbian and historic indigenous American peoples.


Archaeological time periods

One of the most enduring classifications of archaeological cultures was established in Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips' 1958 book Method and Theory in American Archaeology.[1] They divided the archaeological record in the Americas into five phases.[1]

Since these simplistic periods were defined, numerous regional and sub-regional divisions have been defined to distinguish various cultures through time and space. Later archaeologists recognized that these linear stages did not adequately correspond to the cultural variation that existed in different locations in the Americas. Although the Formative/Classic/Post-Classic distinction is still used in the archaeology of Mesoamerican chronology, the divisions have been replaced in most of North America by more local classifications with a more elaborated breakdown of periods of time.[1] See: List of archaeological periods (North America)

Archaeology in the United States

Since 1990, in the United States, physical anthropology and archaeological investigations based on the study of human remains are complicated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, (NAGPRA), which provides for the bodies of Native Americans and associated grave goods to be turned over to the recognized tribal body most legally affiliated with the remains. In some cases, notably, that of Kennewick Man, these laws have been subject to close judicial scrutiny and great intellectual conflict.[2]

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