The systematic study of past cultures based on the items they left behind. A systematic science. Science of research, careful documentation, and attention to detail. The term "archaeology" was first used by the ancient Greeks: the study of ancient things.
Archaios - Logos
"Ancient" - "word or speech".
Unearth and study remnants from the past in order to better understand the people and culture of different time periods and better explain where we came from. They are scientists, explorers, and historians.
Guided by the desire to find answers to specific research questions. Usually what people think of when they hear the word archaeology. No specific deadlines for their expeditions and often spend many years excavating the same site.
Cultural Resource Management (CSM)
Is to protect archaeological sites and rescue artifacts and features that might be destroyed during the development or construction of an area. Must complete their work within a specified time or period.
Study archaeological sties that occurred after the time of written records. These record help them better understand the people and items they unearth.
Do not have modern documentation to guide their work. They study the very earliest archaeological sites before the European contact and before historical records were kept. They must make inferences about what they find based on what they know about other cultures. They rely on methods such as oral history, statistical modeling, and experimental archaeology to extract information.
"False science" - refers to information presented as factual with no scientific basis. No formal training. A pseudoscientist works backwards, developing a theory and then find data to support it instead of forming a logical hypothesis and testing it. The "facts" are often taken out of context and are not supported by research or even firsthand observation.
The study of humanity. They research the cultural, physical, social habits, and development of people. A little more precise in nature and relies on very specific methodology to study the remnant left behind by societies.
Three main ways archaeologists find a site:
Planned, rescue, and accidental.
Refers to the most common way of choosing a site. Archaeologists go extensive research before choosing a dig site. They study historical documents, aerial photographs of the area, old maps, and any previous excavation material pertaining to the subject at hand.
Employed when artifacts are in immediate danger of being destroyed. This is usually due to the imminent construction of an area. Archaeologists are called in to remove any important artifacts before the site is overturned.
Archaeologists are immediately called to the scene to ensure the items are extracted properly and not harmed by curious people.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Discovered accidentally in 1947. A Bedouin shepherd found them while searching for a lost animal.
Found in China. Farmers found artifacts that left archaeologists to them while digging a well.
Cave of Lascaux
Found by French school boys while searching for a lost dog. This find turned out to be one of the oldest and best preserved examples of prehistoric art ever found.
Items needed to dig
Permission to dig in the form of permits secured by governments.
Steps before the dig
Receive paperwork, examine location carefully, create a map of site, and divide the site into numbered grid squares.
Number one tool of archaeologists. Used for digging as well as leveling out the bottom and sides of the unit being excavated.
Other excavating tools
Hand pick, various sizes of brushes, a dust pan, small broom, dental picks, bamboo sticks, and plastic spoons.
Each item discovered must be recorded using its grid number and by measuring the depth or layer in which it was found. Each detail of an excavation site must be recorded with notes, photographs, and sketches.
This is where archaeologists put together all the information about an artifact and draw conclusions about what they have found. Archaeologists will classify and describe each artifact. Each artifact is analyzed to find out its composition, physical structure, and how it was made.
The process of dating artifacts.
Used to compare the date of an object based on its relation to the age of another object with a known date found in the same layer of dirt. Does not result in an exact date but gives a general time frame or era.
Provides archaeologists with the actual age of an object.
Radiocarbon dating (carbon dating)
The most often used method of absolute dating, but it only works on objects that were alive at one time. All living things absorb carbon 12 and carbon 14. Once they die the atoms disappear at a constant rate. Archaeologists are able to measure the amount of each of the carbons left in an artifact and then determine its age.
Used to date minerals and rocks. Potassium and argon change at a constant rate, so by measuring the amount left in a rock, archaeologists can determine how old the rock is.
Reigned between 556-539 BC, ordered the restoration of ancient temples and then collected and displayed the antiques discovered during the excavations. This was the first recorded archaeological dig for specific purpose of learning about the past.
17th and 18th centuries
Archaeology resembled treasure hunters more closely than modern day archaeologists. Many excavations were neither systematic nor based on scientific methods. More of a hobby than a science.
Giovanni Battista Belzoni 1778-1823)
Was responsible for many discoveries in Egypt such as the Tomb of Abu Simbel and the sarcophagus of Ramses II. While searching for papyri he made the comment "Every step I took crushed a mummy in some part of the other."
Exception to the treasure hunters of his time. He discovered Stonehenge wile hunting and in 1663 was commission by the King of England to study the site in great detail. He later became known as England's first archaeologist in recognition of his work.
Law of Superposition
Developed by geologist Nicolas Steno. States that sedimentary layers are deposited one on top of the other and the top layer is younger than the layer beneath is. These laws are still used today to help archaeologist date their discoveries.
Archaeology began to gravitate toward the use of scientific methods. In America, Thomas Jefferson began his research into the history of Native Americans. His approach to excavating the mounds was very similar to that used today. He chronicled all the detail of each dig site in a notebook and took soil samples in order to learn about the surrounding area. He wrote "Notes on the State of Virginia" in 1781 which covered his historical topics of interest in great detail.
Brought a team on 175 scholars and scientists with him when he invaded Egypt in 1798 in an effort to learn more about Egyptian culture. Their work was compiles in a book called "Description of Egypt" published in 1809.
Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, finally breaking the code to ancient Egypt's hieroglyphics.
The basis for modern archaeology was firmly established as a scientific discipline. Saw advanced in all of the sciences.
Three-Age System of Chronology
Developed by a Danish museum curator by the name of Christian Thomsen in order to better organize collection at the museum where he worked. This was the first systematic relative dating system every developed. It divided prehistory into the Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages based on the type of tools utilized during each period.
Augustus Pitt Rivers
The first modern archaeologist on England (1827-1900) that made great strides in archaeology during this time period. After inheriting a large estate he decided to excavate it. Pitt Rivers brought the organization he learned while in the military to the field of archaeology. He carefully trained his workers and documented everything his team found, not just the obvious treasures.
The classification of artifacts in chronological sequence to show their development over time.
Vowed that he would excavate the city of Troy when he grew up. Using Homer's "The Iliad" as a guide, he found the location of the ancient city in 1871 which was an enormous archaeological accomplishment.There were nine cities of Troy total, and each one was built on top of the other. In his excitement to find the layer of Troy represented in the book, Schliemann destroyed much of the ruins and overlooked many important historical items.
"Methods and Aims in Archaeology" provided a systematic method for excavation. The first big find of the century was Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. This excited people everywhere and inspired the next generation to study the field of archaeology. The advances in this century have had the greatest impact on the field and have spurred great advances in the field in the areas of site selection, research, and reliability,
Research into carbon dating in the 1940's was a huge breakthrough in the field of archaeology. His discovery enabled archaeologists to date artifacts with much greater accuracy than statigraphy alone. Imaging radar has given archaeologists "x-ray vision" and helped them locate sites such as the Lost City of Ubar, which was hidden in the sands of the Sahara Desert, and Angkor, and ancient Cambodian kingdom hidden for centuries under the dense tropical forests which covered it.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Allow archaeologists to quickly and accurately record the special information of each layer of a site. The same coordinate system is used with each layer allowing them to be georeferenced.
Computed Tomography (CT)
Has allowed broken, incomplete, and extremely fragile pieces to be scanned into the computer as 3D images and virtually reconstructed, a process which used to be done completely by hand, often damaging priceless artifacts in the process.
Taken tomography one step further by making computer-generated physical replicas of an artifact.
Three values of archaeology
Human value: lies in the information that archaeologists unveil. A clear understanding of our past allows us to better secure our future. Community value: direct effect on the present. Patriotism and nation pride. Market value: economic worth of archaeology.
The economic worth of archaeology. Based on the amount of profit an archaeological site has the potential to bring in through its potential for tourism for the worth of its artifacts. The market value of a site is often compared with the value developers have determined the land to be worth when decisions must be made about the site's survival.
The study of how religion and art shaped previous civilizations' ideologies.
Work on-site to ensure newly excavated materials are properly preserved. They promote conservation education and seek to improve current archaeological excavation techniques.
Study how mankind related and interact with their environment.
The study of plant remains in order to glean dietary habits and agricultural information of societies.
Often stretches many miles past the perimeter of the excavation itself. Study the traces people left that give clues to how they interacted with the environment around them.
Tests scientific theories by attempting to recreate artifacts using the same techniques as the original creators.
Study of human or animal bones.
Focuses on animal remains found in archaeological sites.
Study of human bones.
The study of the industrialized world and the changes that have been brought about as a result of the Industrial Revolution.
Maritime and coastal archaeology
The most dangerous of the archaeological sciences. They study ships, coastal settlements, and anything else of historical value that has been submerged. Recover history from the ocean.