Archaeology is the study of past cultures through the examination
of material remains of human activity remaining in the ground. Archaeology
involves locating archaeological sites, or places where material
evidence of past human activity is present, and recovering those remains
to improve our understanding of the past. The location of archaeological
sites is known as archaeological survey, and the recovery of remains
from a site through digging is called excavation.
The study of archaeology is essentially multidisciplinary. The study
of material remains involves:
for example, determining the chemical signature on the interior of an ancient
ceramic vessel to discover what kind of food, animal or vegetable people
cooked on it
radiocarbon dating organic remains to learn the age of a site
identifying the plant and animal remains from an excavation
describing the strata of an archaeological site to learn how the deposit
containing the site was formed, and under what conditions this happened
Archaeology is important for several reasons:
It is the only way we can learn about the past in those periods when no
written records were left. Some such times are the time of the Paleolithic,
when Neanderthals and other early humans lived, or during more recent times
in areas such as South America, where there is a rich "history" of civilizations,
but there were no written documents before the advent of the Europeans.
Archaeology is also important in the study of the historically known past
because archaeology's focus on material remains provides a record of the
lives of ordinary people, which is often left out of the historic chronicles.
Finally, archaeology is a way of preserving the physical remains of the
past so that we may use these objects to enhance our appreciation of the
past. Without the efforts of archaeologists, many museums would have nothing
to show of the great achievements of our ancestors.
Many people think of archaeology as nothing more than the discovery
of great treasures. Mostly it is not. Archaeology is normally the examination
of bits and scraps of people's behavior from the past. From these pieces
of discard, archaeologists try to learn of the things that happened in
the past. By patiently piecing together the information from site after
site, a picture emerges about life in the past.
Try some exercises! (1st grade - 3rd grade)(6th
grade - 9th grade)
more information, contact Dr. Michael Michlovic
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