The Study of Archaeology

Essay by Viet2kHigh School, 11th grade April 2004

download word file, 3 pages 3.7

Archaeology is the scientific study of past human culture and behavior from the origins of humans to the present. Archaeology studies past human behavior through the examination of material remains of previous human societies. These remains include the fossils (preserved bones) of humans, food remains, the ruins of buildings, and human artifacts--items such as tools, pottery, and jewelry. From their studies, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of life. Archaeology is an important field of anthropology, which is the broad study of human culture and biology. Archaeologists concentrate their studies on past societies and changes in those societies over extremely long periods of time. Archaeology covers such an enormous span of time that archaeologists specialize in different time periods and different cultures. They also specialize in particular methods of study. Some archaeologists study human biological and cultural evolution up to the emergence of modern humans. Others focus on more recent periods of major cultural development, such as the rise of civilizations.

Others research later historical subjects and time periods, using both written and archaeological evidence. Many archaeologists have expertise in other fields that are important to archaeological study, including physical anthropology (the study of human biology and anatomy), geology, ecology, and climatology (the science of weather patterns).Archaeological studies have three major goals: chronology, reconstruction, and explanation. Chronologies establish the age of excavated materials. Reconstructions are models of what past human campsites, settlements, or cities--and their environments--might have looked like, and how they might have functioned. Explanations are scientific theories about what people living in the past thought and did. It would be extremely difficult for archaeologists to interpret the archaeological record if they thought that people and cultures of the past bore no resemblance to those of today. Because they assume that there has been some continuity through time,