What is Archaeology

Archaeology is a science that deals with the study of the past human remains, by analyzing the cultural material from the past. There are many disciplines that come under the umbrella of archaeology. Like geology, anthropology, biology, zoology, envoirmental sciences etc. Some time archaeology is also considered as a branch of the socio-cultural anthropology. Anything like ecofact, artifacts, structural remains etc that are recovered from a historic site are studied for the reconstruction of the past.

The Terminology:

The word Archaeology is driven out of two Greek words,” Archaios” means old and “logia” means study. So it is a study of the past; about the people who were living in the era million of the years ago from the present time.

How does archaeology works?

Archaeologist study of the past humans activities, from the time when the first stone tool was struck by a man. So the Stone Age is the time period from which begins the work of the archaeologists. Their entire work is based on the excavation. As a result of the excavation a cultural stratified deposit exposes from a historical site.

That we get a face of million of the years in one thick deposit of the clay. Each artifact that is embedded in a layer is carefully recorded in situ. Archaeologist continues to dig a trench until the arrival of the virgin soil. Each strata is studied in a single unit to bring the out as maximum information from the stratigraphy as possible.

Who are Archeologists?

An archaeologist is a person who is qualified from a certified university in the subject of Archaeology. They are responsible for excavating a site and recording and collecting the past human cultural remains. That is the way they reconstructing the whole story of an archaeological site with the help of these material remains. They also take help of the other subjects’ experts to study the artifacts.

The Fundamentals of Archaeology:

Following are the fundamental steps that are part of the archaeology;

  1. Per Excavation survey
  2. Pre Excavation report
  3. Pre excavation trail trench
  4. Excavation
  5. Analysis of the data
  6. Documentation
  7. Excavation report

Purpose of Archaeology:

As mentioned before, archaeology is essential to understand the past of the human societies, and the development stages of the human races. The truth is that, that 90 percent of the human past is associated with the Stone Age. It is the era in which we do not find any written record. This makes it so intricate to understand the ancient societies and their life style. So this is the only way to understand the past human culture is archaeology. Archaeology sheds light on the human capabilities, that how in different times man developed mentally in the field of religion, art, metallurgy, technology and agriculture etc. Simply without the help of the archaeological excavation and exploration, the world would not aware about their ancestors.

Studying Literate Cultures through Historic Archaeology:

Archaeology not only helps to understand the pre literate cultures, but it has helped a lot in reconstructing the history of the historic and the literate eras. This is another sub discipline of archaeology known as historic archaeology. The reason is so obvious. In the literate societies, like Indus valley and the Mesopotamian civilizations like Babylonians and Sumerians, although there was a use of literature and script in the form of clay tablets or manuscripts. But it is seen that as these civilizations are thousands of the years old, so this their written records have gone extinct, or there is a lack of information in the literature regarding their past.

So in this case archaeology helps a great deal to add the missing links or the pages in their past. Then it has observed that in the ancient societies only elite or the ruling class could enjoy the system of education, so it was confined to them only. This is the reason that the information regarding the other classes of the society go missing. The only way to get informed about all of the civilization is the archaeological excavation.

Types of Archaeology:

The nature of the archaeology is like such that makes it so vast. There are different sorts or verity of the matters that are discussed in it. After analyzing each item or the artifact recovered from a site, according to the subject it comes under, the archaeologist can come to a final conclusion. That’s why, although belonging from the same field of the archaeology, the archaeologist now expertise in different specific sub-groups of this discipline. Let’s discuss few of the types;

Bioarcaheology:

Those archaeologist who need to research on the past human remains their study come under bioarcheology.

Zooarchaeology:

Those researchers in this field, who want to study the animal bones and about the presence of the certain species of the animals their study comes under zooarchaeology.

Paleoethnobotany:

The study and research on the extinct plant species of the different families comes under the field of Paleoethnobotany.

Lithics:

The study of the stone tools and stone tool industries and their technique of making is studied under the lithic archaeology.

Space Archaeology:
In recent times the space archaeology has proved very helpful to look for any sign of the encroachments, looting, construction, and even any new signs of ruins for the future archaeologists. In the space archaeology archaeologists make use of high resolution satellite image shots. There is an example of the recent expedition of Peru. In which satellite images were used, taken from 435 miles above the Earth.

It also helps to find differences in the vegetation health, which is a clue to find if anything that lies buried beneath the soil.

Underwater Archaeology:

As the name shows this is a study of those ancient remains that discover underwater in the seas and oceans. This is quite interesting group of archaeology. Underwater archaeology leads to the discovery of the ancient cities, ships, hoards of coins and gold, temples or even sculptures etc that were once got sunk under water in the due to a natural disaster or an accident.

Archaeology and its relation with Anthropology:

In Europe Archaeology is taken as discipline of its own right, while in America it is considered as a sub discipline of anthropology. Anthology is a scientific study of the past human species and human behavior, their societies, norms, and values in the present and past. So anthropology as is concerned with the study of the human’s behavior; and the equivalent things are studied in the archaeology to reconstruct the entire scene of the past human culture. So in this case, archaeology is definitely linked or is dependent on anthropology.

Archaeology and Paleontology:

Archaeology is not related with the Paleontology. Paleontology is a study of the fossil remains. It is a science in which we study the life of the organisms that were living in the beginning of the Holocene era. So archaeology might help to disclose or discover the new species of the organism accidentally but their archaeology is purely concerned with the study of the past human culture.

Archaeological sites:

Any place that contains the past human remains or the artifacts comes under the category of the archaeological site. It does not mean that an archaeological site has to be enough large or it must lie at some abandoned place. If there is a place which kept occupied by a small number of people just for a little time, still there is a potential to find some remains. Besides there are such large urban areas and villages that are so ancient and are hidden under the ground, that need to get exposed. There area is quite large in square kilometers. An archaeological site could lie anywhere on the earth or below the sea, upon a mountain or inside a rock shelter.

Types of the Archaeological Sites:

Following are some of the important types of the archaeological sites;

  1. kiln sites
  2. Quarry sites
  3. Cave sites/Rock shelters
  4. Burial sites
  5. Sacrificial/Ritual sites

Value of the Artifacts, Features and Eco facts:

Anything that is made by a man with his own hands comes under the category of the artifacts. The artifacts that are left behind by an ancient man are immensely important to know the life values and living style of the author of that epoch. Similarly important are features. Features are the non portable remains. Like the houses, granaries, temples etc. Such structural remains help a lot to understand the rituals and again the life pattern of certain particular society. Ecofacts are those remains that are natural. Like plants or gains that were under the use of an ancient man. Their study brings forth the knowledge about the agricultural activities and the technologies the ancient man had used.

Recording Artifact in Situ:

Recording an artifact in situ means recording the artifact at the exact place it is located before removing it from the place it is found. If an artifact does not record in situ, we lose the context forever. And as such the artifact lose its value for forever. As it is not known about the layer of occupation from where it is recovered. So removing an object without recording it in situ can lead to great disturbance. As such archaeologist would not be able to understand the relationship of the artifact with the archaeological site.

Is Archaeology a Science?

Archaeology is usually comes under a social science. Further it is also consider a branch of humanities.

What are the disadvantages of the Archaeology?

In one way when an archaeological site is not excavated; it is actually reserved. When an archaeologist excavate, this destroys a recorded that is embedded for centuries at site. If the things are not recorded scientifically then there are more chances of losing precious information for forever. That is why sometimes large scale sites are left unexcavated; only after recording essential information from a limited one season excavation. So to keep the site preserved for the future archaeologist in the hope that they will bring with them some new technologies.

Skills needed to become an Archeologist:

  1. To become an archaeologist a great zeal is required to remain enlighten about the developments in archaeology
  2. You should be very well organized in approach.
  3. A good archaeologist must have the skill of a strong team work in the field.
  4. Archaeologist must be self motivated and focused.
  5. There is a need of extra communication skills and ability of working proficiently along with other colleagues.
  6. He must be able to use all of the tools and the instruments that are use in the field work.
  7. He must have good knowledge of information technology.
  8. And at the last he must have great patience and dedication towards his work.

Duties of an Archaeologist:

The duties of an archaeologist include;

  1. Preservation, restoration and cleaning the artifacts.
  2. Making surveys and identifying a place of historic value.
  3. Collecting the artifacts and other ecofact from the site and creating a catalogue of them according to their position they are found in situ.
  4. After the collection, putting the object on display in the museum.
  5. Creating a post excavation report for the department he is working for and also for the public awareness.

What are the Technologies use in Archaeology:

Archaeology has been developed largely day by day due to the introduction of the new technologies in this field.
The basic techniques, use in the field of archaeology were developed in the late 1950s and 60s. The introduction of the computer has revolutionized these techniques to a great extent.
In the recent epoch, science has advanced in many fields. Luckily archaeologists are now able to make use of these technologies in their field work. As far as the geophysical techniques are concerned; archaeologists make use of the four technologies in this regard.

  1. Magnetic gradiometer.
  2. Earth resistance
  3. Ground penetrating radar (GPR)
  4. Magnetic susceptibility.

All of these technologies help measure some features of the ground below the super facial layer. It is now possible for the archaeologists to gain the underground information without digging up the soil.

What is a Difference between Archaeology and Archeology?

There are two spellings for the archaeology. One is “archaeology” while the other spelling is “archeology”. Both are correct.

Archaeology as a Career:

In the countries that have a rich cultural history. There is a great scope of the archaeology. After gaining a degree of archaeology from a certain university. Anyone who has a post graduate diploma may apply for the post of lecturer in the college or an institute.
Further with this degree you can start working as a curator in any government or non governmental history museum.

After the M.Phil. and then PhD degrees, archaeologist gets higher ranks in the field of teaching. Any senior professor or assistant professor of archaeology has a lot more of chances to apply for the post of the “director of archaeology”. If he has completed all of the research papers that are required for this post. Then there are regional departments on the provincial level in some countries , like in case of Pakistan. These posts of the provincial archaeology directorate and its sub ordinate posts are also occupied by the capable archaeologists.

Different NGOs and international bodies like UNESCO that work for the preservation of the heritage and culture along with the tourism, are also in seek of the archeologists for their office.

List of the Common Jobs Available for the Degree Holder in Archaeology :

  1. Conservation Officer of the Historic buildings.
  2. Museum Curator.
  3. Heritage and culture Manager
  4. Teacher like Lecturer.
  5. Documentation specialist
  6. Education officer in the Museum.

Eras/Periods those are Discuss in Archaeology:

In archaeology there are three main eras that are discussed in archaeology;

  1. Stone Age / Pre Historic era
  2. Proto Historic Era (Bronze age)
  3. Historic era

Besides these eras, anything that is hundred years old becomes antiquity. So any artifact that has been credited of being hundred years old comes under archaeology.

FAQs

Following are the frequently asked question regarding archaeology;

1. When was archaeology invented?

It was 15th and 16th centuries when the people started taking interest in collection of the humanism. The elites of the Renaissance collected antiquities from the Rome and ancient Greece.

2. Who invented archaeology?

The earliest evidences of the archaeology are found from the 18th century Egyptian dynasty who took interest in the reconstruction of the Sphinx circa 1550-1070. While the first modern archaeologist is Jon Aubrey, Who investigated on the Stonehenge situated in England in around 17th Century CE.

Conclusion:

The main goal of the archaeology is to find the life style of the ancient societies, and then explaining the evolutionary changes that are followed in a span of thousands of years. Archaeology is based on a multi Disciplinary or cross disciplinary research. It relies on other disciplines to come to a certain truthful conclusion.