CAN PAST TALK TO US
1. A few years back a movie titled ‘Jurassic Park’ was released and soon became box office hit. When I saw the movie I was astonished and impressed by the on screen appearance of the huge creatures, the dinosaurs, of different variety. The object of appreciation was, of course, the computer generated graphics and animation. But more than that, I was really amazed by the knowledge the people had about these wild monsters, who are the species extinct for almost 65 million years. How do these people come to know how did these creatures look like, what were their food habits, how did they live and how did they evolve? A question came to my mind, ‘CAN PAST TALK TO US?’ .
A few years later another movie was released, ‘The Mummy’. This time it was the Egyptian culture that was depicted. Incidentally this culture has also been extinct for thousands of years. It is believed that this culture was in existence some 4500 years ago. Where did the knowledge of the life style of the ancient Egyptians, their religious practices, their culture, their language and their houses, clothes and weapons come from? Could the past possibly have talked to the producers?
I am sure these questions must have surfaced in your minds also. If I was to answer these questions, I would say, yes, the past can talk to us. But only through an interpreter. This interpreter is called an ‘ARCHAEOLOGIST’.
Good morning lady and gentlemen, today I shall talk briefly on the subject ‘Archaeology’. Although the subject of digging into the past of the planet earth has extremely wide scope, I shall restrict myself to the history of man, only.
The aim of my talk today is to explain to you in brief, what is meant by archaeology, to give you a brief idea about the work of an archaeologist and the manner in which he goes about his business. At the end of my talk you will have a reasonable idea about the field of archaeology.
I shall be covering this topic in the following manner, (a)
What is archaeology?
What are the related fields to archaeology?
c) How does an archaeologist go about his work? d) How are the relative time periods of the artefacts found, fixed? (e)
How does he interpret the exhibits found?
What are the problems he faces regarding the artefacts?
Archaeology is the art or science or both which makes possible the recovery and understanding of much of the human past. The word archaeology has been derived from two Greek words, namely,
Archeia, meaning the ancient things and,
Logos, meaning the theory or the science.
Thus archaeology is the theory or science of the ancient things.
The archaeologist develops his understanding of past from the traces of the things which ancient men made; tools, weapons, utensils and other objects of daily use. In the language of archaeology these things are called the ‘artifacts’. These artefacts may range from the exquisite vessels of gold from the tomb of a king, to the charred remains of wood from a hearth in a cave. Both the types of artefacts are equally important to the understanding of how ancient men lived.
It has been said that there are two varieties of archaeological interests. The first is concerned with the western cultural heritage from classical times. It is called ‘classical archaeology’. For the archaeologists of this tradition the things of greatest interest and value, from the past are to be found in areas subjected to greek and roman influences. The second kind of archaeology is called the ‘prehistoric archaeology’. The archaeologists of this tradition concern themselves with remote prehistoric men and the traces of peripheral or exotic people whose history had nothing to do with western cultural origins.
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