The Complexity of Archeology
September 30, 2008
This paper considers the process-oriented nature of the field of archaeology together with techniques designed to make those processes successful. The process is outlined beginning with the archaeologist establishing goals for a project, followed by research, fund-raising, surveying, and site testing. Special attention is then paid to the heart of any archeological project: techniques of excavating, relic dating and analysis, and preservation.
The Complexity of Archeology
An archaeologist is a person who helps to protect and understand the record of the past by uncovering information about ancient civilizations. He does this by digging objects out of the ground and then studying them. When an archaeologist uncovers a piece of history, whether it is a vase or an entire city, he is adding a piece to the puzzle that answers the question: what was the past like? In order to find pieces of past civilizations, archaeologists must complete several steps.
There are multiple steps that an archaeologist must take before he starts to dig. An archeologist’s first step is to decide just what it is that he hopes to find (Panchyk, 2001, p. 3). Sometimes he will be looking for a specific item. For example, Howard Carter looked for years hoping to find King Tutankhamen’s tomb before he actually found it. Other times, the archeologist has a more general goal that he hopes to achieve. In this case, he would have in mind some bigger, broader questions that he wanted to answer with his finds. Example questions might be: Why did a group of people leave an area? What modes of transportation did a group of people use? The archaeologist must know what he hopes to find before he begins to search. This way he will not waste time, energy, or money.
Once the archaeologist has decided what his main goal is or has defined what he wants to find, he must start studying (Panchyk, 2001, p. 3). Before an archeologist makes a trip to the site he plans to dig up, he must do as much research on it as he can. He is looking for new information and is wise to take advantage of the work others have done. After all, “the great civilizations that began about 5,000 years ago are usually mentioned in various historical accounts” (Panchyk, 2001, p. 3). Carter, who found King Tutankhamen’s tomb, researched ancient Egypt for thirty-one years (“Tut Watch” para. 5 and 6). All of this research prepared him to know where to dig and what clues to look for as evidence of King Tut’s tomb. As shown with Carter’s example, this step might actually take years before it is complete. The research is complex and unique for each archaeological dig, but one thing is generally true of all projects. That is, the more an archeologist knows about the civilization he is studying, the better prepared he will be to make sense of new objects that he uncovers.
The next step that archeologist must take is to find money to fund his dig. This means that he must either write grant applications or find people who will donate either time or money to help fund the project. Without money, the archaeologist cannot hire people to help him. In fact, he could not even afford the tools necessary to help dig up the artifacts (Panchyk, 2001, p. 5). Lord...
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