Essay by eveningHigh School, 11th gradeA-, March 2005

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Archaeology is a science that has as its goal the reconstruction of culture history before there was a written record. In the United States, archaeology is taught in universities in the Anthropology Department along with its related fields of Physical Anthropology, Linguistics, and Ethnology. Today a qualified archaeologist normally has a doctorate most often based on experience in the field, for there is no substitute for the shovel, paintbrush, trowel, and tweezers.

A major excavation today is an interdisciplinary undertaking using anthropologists as well as specialists in a variety of fields such as agronomy, zoology, botany, and geology. A career path in archaeology usually leads to teaching at a university that provides the opportunity for fieldwork in the summer or on sabbaticals. Research institutions and museums seek archaeologists as curators for their collections and also sponsor field expeditions.

The establishment of chronology is a prime concern for understanding spatial and temporal interrelationships.

To this end, stratigraphy and seriation are long-standing reliable techniques of investigation. Other methods used with success are tree-ring counts, obsidian hydration, and fluorine analysis. The greatest boon for archaeology since 1949 has been radiocarbon dating, employing a variety of organic materials. In the last few decades aerial photography and satellite images have been used to locate archaeological sites and detect ancient raised field agriculture. Certain geophysical technologies have successfully identified structures beneath the surface, and in Egypt cosmic radiation detectors have been helpful in finding chambers in the Giza pyramids.

Computers too have a role, especially for handling quantitative and statistical analyses. The potential is there for the formulation of databases to store and share material that will be more easily used than the traditional site reports.

Archaeology is not without unique problems. Faking and looting continue unabated as huge monuments are broken and carted...