A Short Introduction to Archaeology

A Short Introduction to Archaeology

A Short Introduction to Archaeology

A Short Introduction to Archaeology

Excerpt

A RCHAEOLOGY is a source of history, not just a humble auxiliary discipline. Archaeological data are historical documents in their own right, not mere illustrations to written texts. Just as much as any other historian, an archaeologist studies and tries to reconstitute the process that has created the human world in which we live--and us ourselves in so far as we are each creatures of our age and social environment. Archaeological data are all changes in the material world resulting from human action or, more succinctly, the fossilized results of human behaviour. The sum total of these constitute what may be called the archaeological record . This record exhibits certain peculiarities and deficiencies the consequences of which produce a rather superficial contrast between archaeological history and the more familiar kind based upon written records.

Not all human behaviour fossilizes. The words I utter and you hear as vibrations in the air are certainly manmade changes in the material world and may be of great historical significance. Yet they leave no sort of trace in the archaeological record unless they be captured by a dictaphone or written down by a clerk. The movement of troops on the battle-field may "change the course of history", but they are equally ephemeral from the archaeologist's standpoint. What is perhaps worse, most organic materials are perishable. Everything made of wood, hide . . .

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