Archaeology is the study of the human past through the systematic recovery and analysis of material culture. Tangible items found during excavations can range from projectile points, knives, scrappers, grinding stones, tin cans, bottles, leather pieces, household goods, building materials, nails, bolts, bricks and trash pits. Through recovery and analysis, the material things left behind by humans can be interpreted to tell the story of how humans interacted with the land and how they lived in the past. Archaeology reveals the hidden story into the lives of people who did not necessarily leave a written record behind, and the story captures mundane aspects of lifestyles that were not recorded in any way. Over thousands of years a wide variety of people traversed, lived, and died on the lands that now fall within the boundaries of JBLM. Native Americans, Euro Americans, Canadians and Hawaiians all left behind evidence of their interactions.
The JBLM Cultural Resources program conducts archaeological studies to identify and protect significant archaeological sites that have stories to tell. The program identifies other lands where military training can occur. The program oversees the trained professionals who conduct archaeological investigations and perform all archaeological work on base. All work on the installation is overseen or conducted by professionals who meet the Secretary of the Interior standards for archaeology. When excavating, professional archaeologists make extraordinary efforts to record every aspect of a site. By combining data with historic research, consultation with interested parties, and contextual studies, we have a better understanding how people adapt to, and utilize the environment and landscape through time.
There are approximately 473 known archeological sites on JBLM. These include Native American villages, camp sites, fishing stations, Hudson Bay Company era farms, homesteads, logging camps, dairies, hop farms and processing plants, and old town sites. Although there are no standing structures that remain, a wealth of information remains hidden from view. Sites are recorded and filed with the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The program maintains an in-house database and tracks all sites in GIS.