There and Back Again: An Artifact Tale

Purpose of Study: In an effort to preserve data for future research, artifact collections are diligently excavated and curated. The purpose of this project was to test the hypothesis that curated artifact collections hold invaluable research potential, even if they are examined under new archaeological paradigms. Procedure: This project used an artifact collection excavated in 1986 as a test case study. The collection from CA-SON-882. near Santa Rosa, is primarily made up of artifacts from the Southern Pomo Native Californian tribe. This collection was reevaluated under a new archaeological theoretical paradigm of hunter-gatherer complexity and compared to current research in the area to determine if the data remained valuable over time. Findings: Though excavated over twenty years ago, the artifact data from CA-SON-882 remains directly relevant to current archaeological theories, such as the emergence of hunter-gatherer complexity and the use of cost signaling by the Southern Pomo. Conclusions: Artifact collections do hold valuable data potential for future research, but only if researchers can acknowledge that artifacts are a product of those who excavate and process them. As time passes, artifacts travel on an intangible journey through theoretical paradigms. In order to be able to apply data from curated collections, archaeologists must be able to understand and reconstruct the artifacts' original theoretical contexts.