Discovering the past to understand
There are various ways of learning about
past human cultures. For example, using old written
documents which can be found in archives is the way
of History. Or again, recovering oral accounts from
old persons who share information on past events is
the way of Oral Tradition. But when no words are available,
either written or spoken, investigation must rely on
physical evidence left behind by past civilisations.
This is Archaeology.
, very little of the past human experience would be
known, because the lengthiest period of human existence
took place before the invention of writing. Human origins
date back to around 4 million years ago and the modern
human being is only approximatively 100,000 years old.
The first advent of writing appears
around 5000 years ago. Even after that, very little
information was written down compared to modern times.
Archaeology permits us to travel back in time, well
before any oral transmission and well before the advent
Data recovery in archaeology is done during
excavations at archaeological sites. This fieldwork
is the function most people are familiar with. But it
is only a small portion of the work. Archaeologists
prepare themselves well before they dig by elaborating
research projects, studying landscapes and locating
the sites.When the excavation is over, the work continues
with the classification and analysis of all the data
recovered and finally, the interpretation of the past.
The workplace of archaeologists is not only outside,
digging, but also in laboratories, in libraries and
of course, in front of computers.
In most cases, the material remains of
past human societies are found underground. This is
why archaeologists have to dig to uncover clues about
that past. But archaeologists are far from being only
collectors of objects, otherwise called artefacts. They
are above all scientists who study the human past. They
are trained to use proper methods before, during, and
after a dig in order to reach as great an understanding
as possible of long gone cultures and societies. Archaeologists
can be seen as anthropologists of the past.