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This diversified and partly man-shaped landscape in northern Mozambique has some visual appeal (being beautiful or picturesque). Credit: Paulo Oliveira.

Archaeology "studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, ecofacts, human remains, and landscapes."[1]

It "is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record)."[2]

"Because archaeology employs a wide range of different procedures, it can be considered to be both a science and a humanity,[3]"[2].

"Archaeology studies human history from the development of the first stone tools in eastern Africa 3.4 million years ago up until recent decades.[4] (Archaeology does not include the discipline of paleontology.) It is of most importance for learning about prehistoric societies, when there are no written records for historians to study, making up over 99% of total human history, from the Palaeolithic until the advent of literacy in any given society.[3]"[2]

Theoretical archaeology[edit]

Def. "[t]he period of time that has already happened"[5] is called the past.

Def. "[t]he study of the past through material remains"[6] is called archaeology, or archeology.


This is a photograph taken of the noted archaeologist and socialist V. Gordon Childe, circa 1930s. Credit: Swan Watson, Andrew.

"[D]ominant groups create and control the meanings and uses of material culture. If other groups wish to be understood by the dominant group, they must express themselves through the goods controlled by the dominant group."[7]

"But, the privilege afforded a certain dominant group of 'normal' archaeologists in terms of their ways of constructing the past influences all aspects of archaeological practice."[8]

"However, some answers to these questions may emerge from a consideration of the dominant group, that is, the five institutions whose scholars published the most articles in the two periodicals."[9]

Landscape archaeology[edit]

Def. an assemblage of surfaces that are a portion of land, region, or territory, observable in its entirety is called a landscape.

"Landscape comprises the visible features of an area of [terrestrial ecoregion] land, including the physical elements of landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions."[10]

"Landscape archaeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archaeology is inherently multidisciplinary in its approach to the study of culture, and is used by both pre-historical, classic, and historic archaeologists. The key feature that distinguishes landscape archaeology from other archaeological approaches to sites is that there is an explicit emphasis on the study of the relationships between material culture, human alteration of land/cultural modifications to landscape, and the natural environment."[11]


Main sources: Sociology/Sources and Sources
Excavations at the site of Gran Dolina, in Atapuerca (Spain), during 2008, are shown. Credit: Mario Modesto Mata.

"Archaeological field survey is the method by which archaeologists (often landscape archaeologists) search for archaeological sites and collect information about the location, distribution and organization of past human cultures across a large area (e.g. typically in excess of one hectare, and often in excess of many km2)."[12]

Surveys are conducted "to search for particular archaeological sites or kinds of sites, to detect patterns in the distribution of material culture over regions, to make generalizations or test hypotheses about past cultures, and to assess the risks that development projects will have adverse impacts on archaeological heritage.[13]"[12]

"The surveys may be: (a) intrusive or non-intrusive, depending on the needs of the survey team (and the risk of destroying archaeological evidence if intrusive methods are used) and; (b) extensive or intensive, depending on the types of research questions being asked of the landscape in question. Surveys can be a practical way to decide whether or not to carry out an excavation (as a way of recording the basic details of a possible site), but may also be ends in themselves, as they produce important information about past human activities in a regional context."[12]

"[E]xcavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is a site being studied."[14]


Def. "[a]n object, such as a tool, weapon or ornament, [ceramics or pottery,] structure or finding in an experiment or investigation ... made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, ... [as] a result of external action, the test arrangement, or an experimental error ... rather than an inherent element"[15] is called an artifact, or artefact.


Main sources: Chemicals/Coppers and Coppers

In "Serbia [are] the oldest copper implements in the world. Some 7000 years ago, tradesmen of great wealth flourished on the Balkan peninsula."[16]

"The soil around Plonik is rich in copper - the metal in a pure state lays often directly at the surface."[17]

The so-called "copper-violets" "are related to the Alpine violets, which we know in Germany from flower pots. But they grow only in a soil with a very high copper content. There - where the soil is too poisonous for the other plants, they blossom in wide carpets - and in so doing point to the presence of copper."[17]

In "the late stone age people picked up the beautiful stones. For instance, malachite. The green-hued mineral belongs to the class of carbonates. Copper content: 57 percent. Our ancestors made experiments with different stones over the fire. From there, it was only a small step to jewels and to more practical objects."[16]

On "the Black Sea Coast in today's Bulgaria, there flourished a prosperous, big city, quite close to today's Varna. Archaeologists have found the cemetary of this settlement. The graves were loaded with treasures: jewels - mostly gold, but also copper - sea shells from the Aegean and tools made of types of stone which must have come from far away."[16]

"In the 5. Millennium BC people lived there in complex, centralized settlements of up to a thousand inhabitants. They invented a new ceramic oven with two chambers which was remarkably well suited to the extraction of metal. We must strongly surmise that there existed relations between the Balkans and Northern Mesopotamia."[16]

"An enormous fire unleashed itself around 5000 BC in the city [of Plonik]. The earth carbonized. The houses collapsed and buried all the possessions of the inhabitants under their walls. When the flame died down, the city had ceased to exist."[16]


Main source: Tools

In "the deep Southeast of Europe, near today's village of Plonik in Serbia, there existed 7000 years ago a major city. Its inhabitants lived in closely assembled huts and they melted copper to make jewels, tools and weapons."[16]

"The age of the oldest pieces which they have found up to now in the settlement is up to 7300 years. That's a good 800 years older as any other copper implements which have been found anywhere on Earth to this day."[16]


Main source: Weapons

"The people of the Balkan peninsula had a good knowledge of how they could create jewels, tools and weapons out of earth with a high copper content."[16]

"In Plonik, excavators found hatchets of copper. And weapons: axes and maces. With them a new area began. The stone age was gone, the copper age - chalcolithic - had begun."[16]


Main source: Jewelry

"From one grave, the excavator dug 1,516 K of gold jewelry. This is more gold than has been found in all the rest of the world for this particular epoch."[16]


Main sources: Chemicals/Materials and Materials

"In order to interpret archaeological ceramic assemblages in terms of social identities, a method was developed [that] consists in sorting the potsherds according to, successively, technical, techno-petrographic and morpho-stylistic criteria."[18]

Heritage management[edit]

"Rare, though, is the country where ethnic groups balance each other in terms of numbers, wealth or political influence and, consequently, it is not uncommon for the dominant group to use its power to push its own heritage to the fore, minimizing or denying the significance of subordinate groups as it crafts a national identity in its own image."[19]

Historical archaeology[edit]

"Historical archaeology is a form of archaeology dealing with places, things, and issues from the past or present when written records and oral traditions can inform and contextualize cultural material. These records can both complement and conflict with the archaeological evidence found at a particular site. Studies focus on literate, historical-period societies as opposed to non-literate, prehistoric societies. While they may not have generated the records, the lives of people for whom there was little need for written records, such as the working class, slaves, indentured labourers, and children but who live in the historical period can also be the subject of study. The sites are found on land and underwater. Industrial archaeology, unless practiced at industrial sites from the prehistoric era, is a form of historical archaeology concentrating on the remains and products of industry and the Industrial era."[20]


Main sources: History/Prehistory and Prehistory

The prehistory period dates from around 7 x 106 b2k to about 7,000 b2k.

Def. "[t]he history of human culture prior to written records"[21] is called prehistory.


Main source: Hypotheses
  1. Archaeology of Scandinavia will eventually show it to have been occupied 40,000 b2k.

See also[edit]


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  4. McPherron, S. P., Z. Alemseged, C. W. Marean, J. G. Wynn, D. Reed, D. Geraads, R. Bobe, and H. A. Bearat. 2010. Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 466:857-860
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  7. Paul A. Shackel (2000). Marcia-Anne Dobres and John E. Robb. ed. Craft to wage labor Agency and resistance in American historical archaeology, In: Agency in Archaeology. London: Routledge.,%20Agency%20and%20Resistance%20in%20American%20Historical%20Archaeology%202000.pdf. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  8. Thomas A. Dowson (2000). "Why queer archaeology? An introduction". World Archaeology 32 (2): 161-5. doi:10.1080/00438240050131144. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  9. Stephen L. Dyson (April 1985). "Two Paths to the past: A Comparative Study of the Last Fifty Years of American Antiquity and the American Journal of Archaeology". American Antiquity 50 (2): 452-63. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
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  13. E. B. Banning (2002). Archaeological Survey. New York: Kluwer Academic Press. 
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  18. Valentine Roux and Marie-Agnès Courty (2005). Identifying social entities at a macro-regional level: Chalcolithic ceramics of South Levant as a case study, In: Pottery Manufacturing Processes. University of Paris. pp. 201-14. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  19. Denis Byrne (1991). "Western hegemony in archaeological heritage management". History and Anthropology 5 (2): 269-76. doi:10.1080/02757206.1991.9960815. Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
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External links[edit]

{{Anthropology resources}}{{Archaeology resources}}{{Geology resources}}{{Humanities resources}}

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