Science History

History of Archaeology

The cast of the skull of the Taung child uncovered in South Africa

It would be incredible to see how our society developed into the advanced stage that it is in our modern world. This development took thousands of years to achieve with the countless works of humans in different generations. Today, we may only see the greatness that our ancestors left for us, which we do our best to preserve for future generations.

Unfortunately, not everything that our ancestors left for us is still present nor visible in our modern world. Some of them got destroyed, while others are buried underground in various places around the globe. These pieces of material would give us an excellent insight into how our ancestors roamed and survived around the planet. It also shows us the history of how our society evolved from tribes to an advanced civilization.

Interestingly, the origins of our race are one of the most significant studies that catch the interest of scientists. That is why scientists, over the years, do their best to develop different ways to observe past human activities. The studies of various scientists became successful and led to the creation of a branch of science called archaeology.

Archaeology is an exciting field of study that helps build knowledge to give us an overview of how our ancestors lived on our planet. It is a result of various methodologies and tools used by archaeologists, as well as the materials recovered from thousands of years ago.

In this article, we are going to look into a more in-depth definition of archaeology and how it developed into a branch of science.

What is Archaeology?

As mentioned earlier, it is a branch of science devoted to the study of past human activity through the help of various recovered objects. These objects, also known as archaeological records, consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts, and cultural landscapes. The science of archaeology offers a wide range of topics, wherein it is often considered as a branch of social science and humanities.

The term archaeology derived from Greek, which means ‘the study of ancient history.’ With this said, archaeology aims to gain a deeper understanding of cultural history, as well as document and explain the changes in human society throughout the years.

A person who practices archaeology is called an archaeologist, and some of their works include surveying archaeological sites and collect information about the location. Once all the information has been gathered, they would proceed to the excavation to dig, expose, and collect the archaeological remains. Lastly, they analyze the various archaeological records to learn more about the past.

What is the origin of archaeology?

An old photograph of Stonehenge taken in July 1877

Despite being a branch of science that focuses on studying the past, we can trace back the history of archaeology to thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. It was because of the works of King Nabonidus, wherein he discovered and analyzed a foundation deposit of the Akkadian Empire, which existed more than a thousand years earlier. He was the person who led the excavation of the foundation deposit, as well as restored it to its beauty.

Over the years, many other archaeologists contributed to the development of archaeology. But, it was during the 18th century when a breakthrough was made in its advancement. During this time, an English archaeologist named William Cunnington led several excavations, which resulted in many discoveries. He was also responsible for developing various methodologies and techniques used for excavating. His outstanding work earned him the title ‘father of archaeological excavation.’ his works made a significant impact in the study of archaeology, wherein modern archaeologists still use some of his terms and methods for studying past human activities.

Interestingly, one of the most remarkable achievements in the science of archaeology was the development of stratigraphy. This field of study is related to geology, which focuses on the understanding of rock layers, as well as the various properties found on the planet’s surface. This branch of science help builds knowledge of the rock layers present in an excavation site. The information gathered through stratigraphy is then used to perform excavations easier, faster, and more efficiently.

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