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Missouri Department of Transportation

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What is Archaeology?

ArchaeologyArchaeology is the scientific study of past human cultural behavior, based on the analysis of material remains or artifacts (things made or modified by people) and their patterns and distribution within archaeological sites (places where evidence of past human social and cultural behavior are preserved).  Missouri Department of Transportation archaeologists conduct research and field investigations necessary to identify and evaluate the significance of historic and prehistoric archaeological sites in areas that may be affected by proposed or planned transportation projects.  MoDOT carries out archaeological investigations in order to comply with federal and state preservation mandates, and as part of its larger commitment to environmental responsibility.  Where significant archaeological sites cannot be avoided or impacts to those sites cannot be sufficiently minimized, MoDOT archaeologists may conduct excavations to recover artifacts and other data that might otherwise be lost or destroyed during construction of transportation projects.  One of the goals of archaeology is to expand our knowledge of history and prehistory by examining how people adapted to changes in their natural and social environment and their responses to contact with new ideas and different people.  Information recovered from archaeological sites adds incrementally to the accumulated knowledge and understanding of our shared past. 

ArchaeologyWhat Type of Archaeological Sites are Found in Missouri?

Prehistoric archaeological sites in Missouri commonly include villages and campsites, cave/rock shelters, cairns and mounds, petroglyphs (i.e., rock art), and specialized resource procurement sites.  Historic archaeological sites that are commonly encountered in Missouri include, post-European contact era Indian villages and hamlets, homesteads, farmsteads, cemeteries, trails, early roads, trading posts, forts, shipwrecks, and early industrial sites (e.g., mills & factories). 

General information on MoDOT’s approach toward archaeology—as well as the more common types of projectile points found in Missouri—can be found in the brochure Archaeology in Missouri.

Examples of MoDOT Archaeological Investigations

MoDOT produced an 11-minute video as part of the investigations conducted at 55 archaeological sites in Lewis and Clark counties, Missouri, in conjunction with highway improvements of US Route 61, the Avenue of the Saints. This video provides background on the project, how large-scale archaeological investigations are conducted, and information concerning the sites that were explored. MoDOT is also conducting Archaeological Investigation for the New Mississippi River Bridge Project in downtown St. Louis. An example of a MoDOT archaeological investigation that relates to a current issue was featured in MoDOT’s Pathways Spring 2002 issue in the article “Great Quakes!” Additional examples of archaeological sites investigated by MoDOT can be found by using the Archeological Research link at the bottom of the page.


MoDOT conducts archaeological surveys and excavations throughout the state to comply with regulations and as part of our environmental responsibilities.  These investigations provide archaeologists, professional and amateur, and interested public insight into unique aspects of the lifeways of the past inhabitants of Missouri.  Information on archaeology within Missouri and specific MoDOT investigations can be reached by clicking the title.


Educators and students interested in learning about archaeology can find further information and links to additional resources by clicking the title.


Archaeological investigations conducted by MoDOT over the last several decades have provided us with the opportunity to increase our knowledge of the prehistory and history of Missouri.  To learn about current research or past excavations conducted by MoDOT click the title.



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