Chapter 1: The Discipline of Archaeology; The Bronze Age in the Mediterranean
September 8 2016
What is Archaeology?
Study of past cultures through the materials they made and left behind
Culture = human behaviour, beliefs (Why we do what we do, determines behaviour)
How to discover this from ancient societies?
Human Culture Produces things
Non-text based culture, although texts can be useful (true of classical archaeology)
Must navigate a course, know when text helps, or contradicts, or what agenda it has
Includes small things: tools, weapons,
Includes bigger things: architecture, roads etc.
Useful for archaeologists – obtained through excavation (digging + recording +
What is an archaeology site?
Anywhere humans left remains
What do you find?
Features: Fixed objects not easily removed e.g. buildings, graves, walls, shrines,
structures, drains, hearths (where you burn), kilns (pottery)
Artifacts: Things that can be easily moved e.g. pottery, glass, bones, toys, tools
What is context
Huge critical dimension to understand
Association of artifacts and features found in a particular area of excavation or layer,
and the relative position and relationship of this area or layer to the ones above and
The context of archaeological finds is what allows us to interpret them and to
understand their function and meaning
All material culture is of interest from cheap to expensive, because it tells us something
about human activity and human value systems
Goal of archaeology
To reconstruct past of different cultures
Prehistoric archaeologists = no text
Historical archeologists = many written texts (e.g. archives, diaries)
Archaeology is divided by culture and by period 2
Egyptian (by culture over many centuries)
Mediaeval (by period e.g. a shorter historical period)
Classical archaeology = to reconstruct the societies that flourished in the central and
The Archaeological Process
Must deconstruct to reconstruct
Excavation destroys the layers of deposited materials as it goes further down
Documentation of what is found is essential
Excavators have day books – record the day, what you found, record level depth etc.
Without a record it is only destruction
Where to dig and how do you know?
Modern scientific tools
Remote sensing e.g. GPS – Global Positioning System
Ground penetrating radar (electromagnetic radiation using a magnetometer)
Digging is expensive and timely – must be justifiable
Core – where you must start, be careful, ploy and plan
Archaeology survey e.g. discovery of surface debris
The principals Behind excavation
Material – earth, garbage etc. is deposited gradually over time on top of a site
In order to understand accurately what happened, excavation must proceed slowly and