The Scientist and Archaeology

The Scientist and Archaeology

The Scientist and Archaeology

The Scientist and Archaeology

Excerpt

Until a few years ago an archaeologist could hope to master and himself become proficient in most of the techniques with which he might be called upon to practise. A good archaeologist would not be satisfied to be adept only at the identification of human artefacts, but he would acquire certain additional skills; with camera and pen he would record his work, and he would learn the rudiments of surveying, something of skeletal anatomy, and the processes of stratification; he would also interest himself in the primitive arts and crafts which gave shape to his excavated finds.

At that time a good archaeologist could safely regard himself as the expert on all aspects of any site which he had investigated. Today, however, archaeological inquiry has become so diversified that no one can even pretend to be fully conversant with all branches.

Archaeological reports are often now published with scientific appendices--a note on fossil shells, an analysis of the metals composing a sword-blade, an interpretation of changes in the colour of the soil--each written by a different specialist. The good archaeologist still seeks to acquire the skills and the learning of his predecessors, but he must now try also to understand at least what scientific colleagues may be able to offer. He will know that it is insufficient merely to publish expert reports as undigested appendages to an excavation report or other record, but that they must be weighed and considered, and their import understood and incorporated in the conclusions published in the main text.

It is probable that now a few (though by no means all) readers of finished archaeological reports will have had some introduction to a science subject; on the other hand it is certain that none can have acquired a background of knowledge in more than one or two of the many sciences and techniques which are now brought to the aid of archaeologists.

It is therefore the object of this book to give some insight into the work which is being done for archaeology by scientists. Nine authorities who are working with very different techniques on separate problems have agreed to contribute accounts of their . . .

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