Early Cultures: Pre-European Peoples of Wisconsin
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Historians, Anthropologists, and Archaeologists
Mastodon Tooth
Sometimes artifacts are found by local farmers eroding from the bank, as happened with this mastodon tooth. (From La Crosse Tribune, June 10, 1923)
Archaeologists use everything available to them to try to create a picture of what life was like for the people who lived long ago. Like historians and anthropologists who also study people and how they live, sometimes archaeologists talk to living people, or observe them to find out about what life was like in the past. Archaeologists might even ask living people if they know stories or legends about specific locations where people might have lived centuries ago.

Archaeologists can look at old newspapers, books, journals, and official documents to learn more about what happened in the past. But many times there are no written records. The early people in North America did not have a writing system and lived here long before others made written records to document their existence. This time period is sometimes called "prehistoric" which means a time before written records. The term prehistoric does not mean that there was no history; it means that the history was not documented in written form.

Some archaeologists specialize in the study of people who lived here after European settlement began, when there are written records. These archaeologists are known as "Historic Archaeologists."

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