John Edward Terrell and John P. Hart
Dictionaries tell us that archaeology is the scientific study of material remains, such as graves, tools, and pottery, of past human life and activities. They also say that evolution is about life's unfolding story, a word referring to a gradual process of change in a certain direction during which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form, an account of continuous change from “a lower, simple, or worse” into “higher, more complex, or better state.” The first definition scarcely begins to account for what archaeology today is all about. These several definitions of evolution are not only misleading, but—from a Darwinian point of view—are also fundamentally wrong. The proposition of this book is simple. We think a good way to do archaeology well is to study archaeological evidence—“the material remains of the past”—the way that Charles Darwin studied the origin of species. These various dictionary definitions, however, are disconcerting. If most people would agree with these definitions, then we need to begin this book by saying why we do not.
For archaeologists—and for many who enjoy reading about archaeology—much of the excitement of this science comes from the discovery of relics from bygone times. But make no mistake. Regardless of what dictionaries say, most archaeologists are looking for more than ancient remnants and elusive signs of prehistoric people. Most archaeologists also want to write HISTORY, 1 and so they are looking for things that are profound and worth saying about the past. Furthermore, many archaeologists want to discover whether the past has lessons to teach us that can help us better