How to Do Archaeology the Right Way

How to Do Archaeology the Right Way

How to Do Archaeology the Right Way

How to Do Archaeology the Right Way

Synopsis

Despite field conditions that often include bug bites, bad food, and nonexistent plumbing, legions of amateur archaeologists regularly take to the field - sometimes a muddy one - to dig up ceramic pots, animal bones, and stone spearheads. This book explains how and why the professionals do it. In nontechnical language directed at the general public, conservation groups, and land developers, Barbara Purdy summarizes the prehistory of Florida and describes how responsible archaeologists excavate and analyze remains. She answers the questions "How do archaeologists know where to dig?" and "Why do they excavate a particular site?" and discusses the months of planning, surveying, mapping, testing, fund raising, and permit acquisition that precede an excavation. She also includes information on the rules and regulations governing digs, on artifact analysis, dating, and preservation, and on the ways in which excavation affects the balance of nature.

Excerpt

When people learn that I am an archaeologist, many of them say, "How exciting! I always wanted to be an archaeologist." Why do they say that? Most of the time, archaeology is not exciting at all. It is tedious, time-consuming, underfunded work often carried out under field conditions where there is no way to stay clean or to become clean after you get dirty (see frontispiece). There is danger of bug bites, snakes bites, bad weather, bad food, and, sometimes, bad company. You long for an indoor bathroom, a hot shower, a good book, and a sturdy roof over your head. After the fieldwork come weeks, months, or years of sorting, analyzing, and interpreting in order to write an article for publication that often gets turned down. in addition--though saving the world's heritage is a worthwhile and often difficult task--archaeologists are usually not paid as well as some other professionals.

What then is the attraction of archaeology? It is learning something new about something old. For example, there is nothing quite like holding a 10,000- year-old stone spearhead in your hand and trying to recreate how and why it was made and how it was used. Today, some people still hunt and go to war, but they use different kinds of weapons that are usually made of metal. Metals suitable for tool making were virtually unknown in this part of the world (the Western Hemisphere) until Europeans arrived a few hundred years ago. Even in the Old World the technology associated with metallurgy had not been in common use for very long. As soon as metals, particularly iron, became known to the Native Americans, they began to abandon the use of stone and began to use metal that they obtained through trade or by stripping metal from . . .

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