What Is Archaeology?

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the link between archaeology and imperialism. In 1842 a young English adventurer called Austen Henry Layard set out to excavate what he hoped were the remains of the biblical city of Nineveh in Mesopotamia. On arrival he discovered that the local French consul, Paul Emile Botta, was already hard at work. Across the Middle East and in Egypt, archaeologists, antiquarians and adventurers were exploring cities older than the Bible and shipping spectacular monuments down the Nile and the Tigris to burgeoning European museums.What was it about the ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia that so gripped the 19th century imagination? How did nationalism and imperialism affect the search for the ancient past and how did archaeology evolve from its adventuresome, even reckless, origins into the science of artefacts we know today?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Archaeology and Imperialism

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

The popular image of an archaeologist is someone who spends most of their time on their knees painstakingly excavating sites. Although excavation is still one of archaeology’s principal research methods, it is not without problems: it is slow, expensive and can cover only relatively small areas of a site. Most problematic of all, it destroys much of the very evidence we rely upon.

In reality, archaeologists use a wide variety of other techniques to investigate both individual sites and whole landscapes. For example, aerial photography of a farmed field can reveal hidden details because crops ripen differently in areas above buried walls or ditches. Meanwhile the systematic collection of artefacts from the surface of ploughed fields can provide valuable artefactual evidence...

Continue reading Kris Lockyear's article: How do archaeologists discover ancient forgotten monuments?

Further Reading

Archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In North America, archaeology is considered a sub-field of anthropology, while in Europe archaeology is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines.

Archaeologists study human prehistory and history, from the development of the first stone tools at Lomekwi in East Africa 3.3 million years ago up until recent decades. Archaeology as a field is distinct from the discipline of palaeontology, the study of fossil remains. Archaeology is particularly important for learning about prehistoric societies, for whom there may be no written records to study. Prehistory includes over 99% of the human past, from the Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in societies across the world. Archaeology has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Archaeology

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

If you’re interested in archaeology, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Ancient Greece | Anthropology | History

Become a lifelong learner. Sign up via email to get the best videos, articles and podcasts on a new topic each day. Or you can follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Leave a Reply