Archaeology: Helping Fight Poverty around the World

Many people think that archaeology is merely a tool that people can use to learn about the past. However, archaeology is a field that has great promise for helping societies deal with more modern contemporary issues.

One of the many issues that archaeology can help society better deal with is poverty. Although it may seem like an odd issue for archaeology to address, there are actually multiple ways in which the field can help with poverty. Two large ways in which archaeology can help with poverty are helping people learn ancient ways of life and agriculture which may prove more fruitful than their current practices, and by hiring unemployed non-professionals to help assist at excavation sites.

In the past, when the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to help try and foster some economic growth within the country. The CCC employed young men without jobs to helps conserve and restore the nature of the outdoors. Although these young men helped to plant trees and build roads, they also engaged in archaeological investigations. During the investigations, the young men helped to discover and expose historic house foundations, among other things. The CCC was involved in archaeological investigations in over fifteen states. During the eight years that the CCC existed, it employed over 3,000,000 young men across the nation. With this many young men getting employment, it helped to boost the nation out of an economic depression.

A crew of the Civilian Conservation Corps

A crew of the Civilian Conservation Corps


Another way in which archaeology can help with poverty is helping modern societies learn about the way of life of people in the past so that they can better understand how to make the most of their land and resources now. One current example of this can be found in Bolivia. In the past century, Bolivia has had harsh times dealing with climate changes. In the 1960’s, a pre-Inca civilization agricultural method was discovered by archaeologists. This method compensated for such climate changes as those that are currently being faced, and the system has now been implemented. The new system allows for better irrigation of water year-round, and it also allows for a higher yield of crops from the same amount of land. This increase in productivity will bring more wealth and prosperity to a society that might have faced struggles otherwise.


An illustration of how an ancient agricultural technique would be a more efficient use of the land.

An illustration of how an ancient agricultural technique would be a more efficient use of the land.

Archaeology is not just a field that teaches us about the past, but rather it uses knowledge of the past as a means to better the present.  Uncovering better agricultural techniques and employing non-professionals are only two of the ways in which archaeology can help us deal with poverty around the world.






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1 thought on “Archaeology: Helping Fight Poverty around the World

  1. Like the CCC, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a Depression-era organization focused on finding paid work for unemployed Americans, mostly unskilled laborers. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA engaged thousands of workers to help in the construction of public work projects, including public buildings and roads. The WPA was not solely concerned with construction, however; the agency had an interest in cultural matters as well. The agency employed artists – writers, musicians, and actors – to contribute to entertainment and adult education programs, as well as hiring archaeologists to supervise new excavation projects. The WPA, in fact, contributed the most funding and labor to relief archaeology out of any government agency; they sponsored archaeological projects all over the United States. Excavations in Kentucky, for example, focused on the diverse cultures of pre-contact American Indian groups.
    “WPA Archaeology: Legacy of an Era” is a 2002 documentary produced by the Kentucky Heritage Council, about the prehistoric excavations in the state. As you point out in your post, archaeological investigations during the depression not only employed out-of-work laborers, but also greatly contributed to our current knowledge of American history and culture.
    Check it out the documentary here:

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