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Archeology –  The science studies the culture of older times

Archeology – The science studies the culture of older times


Archaeologists are about to dig a stone-age settlement on Sumtangen at Finnbergvatn.

Archeology, the science that studies the culture of older times, based mainly on material culture, but also natural sciences. Archeology understands the living conditions of humans throughout the ages. The science also seeks their adaptation to changing nature, their work, social life, art, and religion.

Archeology is a separate field of study, but can also be regarded as a branch of anthropology or as history. While different branches of the subject have close links with subjects like art history, natural sciences, and other social sciences and humanities.


This famous Chinese burial discovery was discovered by chance when some farmers dug a well in Shaanxi Province in northern China in 1974.

In the 17th centuries, archaeology was limited to the study of classical art and architecture. To a lesser extent, finds and memorials from prehistoric times elsewhere in Europe. Archeology was regarded as a leisure activity for the upper class. The science was concentrated on collecting items for the art and antique cabinet found by the European princes and royal chiefs. These private collections have later provided the foundation for several of the major archaeological and historical museums in Europe. Most countries currently have one or more such central museums and numerous local museums.

After the French Revolution, interest in the study of the past increased. And, archeology was now established as an independent science. At the same time, a number of specific fields distinguished themselves from archeology such as numismatics (mythology), heraldry (the coat of arms), epigraphics (the history of ancient inscriptions). These are studied independently, partly as auxiliary sciences for archeology and other sciences.

Excavation of a skeleton between the ruins of the medieval park in Oslo in May 2002.

The actual archeology is now divided into several branches, such as prehistoric archeology, classical archeology, medieval archeology / historical archeology, marine archeology, etc. The significance of these is different in different countries.

These branches all have the common ground that they study preserved remains or traces of the material culture of older times. Registration and excavation make up an important part of the archaeological research. By the way, all documentation becomes an important source material. Archeology is often perceived as synonymous with excavations. But archeology does not necessarily exclude excavation, although in some form it is a central part of the subject.

The study of fun context is central to archeology. Observations from excavations often make it possible to group the findings based on their discovery context. That is, to determine if the individual finds out of a residence, fortified facility, grave or represents the closure of victims or taxes. Narrowly defined form the context, for example, the basis for space division and activities in houses. While the placement of jewelry and weapons in graves enables the reconstruction of costume and weaponry. A more comprehensive definition of context is that it encompasses the entire local cultural-historical context.

For the understanding of society and its development, the interaction between people and the natural environment is important. This means that topography and soil conditions must be studied in addition to conserved remains of vegetation and wildlife. Vegetation history can be mapped using pollen analyzes, while wildlife and food records are analyzed from preserved waste residues. On a more general level, analyzes of archaeological heritage sites and discoveries in the landscape can also help to provide knowledge about the prehistoric communities.

Dating the findings is a key point, and to prepare chronologies. The dating methods can be grouped in relative and chronometric (absolute) methods. The relative methods date findings relative to other findings, without specifying age. Central methods here are stratigraphy and typology. The chronologic (absolute) methods date the findings with the year. The most important thing is dating using archaeological methods such as typology and CrossFit (with historically dated findings). Today, natural science methods are used, especially the C-14 method, where the number of radioactive carbon emissions in organic matter can provide an approximate date of the findings. Dendrochronology, which includes measuring triangles in prehistoric objects or buildings, gives the most precise dates, but materials suitable for such surveys are rarely preserved.

How dates are given in archaeological literature varies, which can create confusion and make it a challenge to set up accurate chronologies. For dates referring to real calendar years, the usual terms bc will usually be used. and e.Kr. (English BC and AD), which corresponds to the more value-neutral bc. (before our time bill) and possibly. (after our time bill). On the other hand, C-14 dating, which differs from real sun-years, must be entered with BP (English before present, “before present”) unless calibrated.

Depending on the archeology branch, sometimes only periods of time (bronze age ) or an archaeological culture (eg funeral culture ) are indicated. A more accurate timing will vary from region to region and could be changed by making new discoveries and dating.

Prehistoric archeology

An important boundary in archeology is between the disciplines that study periods without writing and those studying periods of writing. This boundary separates prehistoric archeology from historical archeology, such as Egyptology, classical archeology, medieval archeology and historical archeology in the United States.

Prehistoric archeology encompasses archeology in the days prior to writing culture. That is, one has prehistoric archeology in all parts of the world, but the time for when prehistoric archeology is replaced by historical archeology varies according to where one is. Prehistoric archeology encompasses both the study of prehistoric communities and those on the border of the historically known ( protohistoric ).

Prehistoric archeology resembled independent science in northern and western Europe in the mid-1800’s. The Danish archeologist Christian Jürgensen Thomsen developed from 1818 the so-called three-period system, published in 1836, a system that divides the history of a stone, bronze and iron age. The system has since been widely accepted, but with modifications, as it has been found that the use of stone tools has remained in most places far into the Bronze Age, elsewhere, pure stone-age cultures have lived next to the Bronze Age culture (see, for example, Bronze Age Norway ), or Bronze Age and Iron Age are missing altogether (see, for example, Australia’s history). In Central and Southern Europe and Asia, the Bronze Age has had a precursor where copper was the only known metal (chalcolithic).

During the 19th century, it was largely possible to divide these main sections into a number of periods and times, first in the Nordic region, later in other parts of Europe and elsewhere. It is common to divide the stone, bronze and iron ages into the old and the younger periods. These sections are divided into shorter periods.

In the 1850s could French and English archaeologists submit evidence that Stone Age also goes back to the Quaternary ice and interglacial periods. Using stratigraphic discoveries in France, a division of the Stone Age into Paleolithic time could be set up, which with its subdivisions is divided into an older (Abbeville, Acheuléen ), the Middle ( Mousterian ) and the younger stadium (Aurignacian, Solutrean, Magdalena ). The study of pale politics is conducted in close cooperation with quaternary geology and anthropology. It was previously believed that the cultures followed each other in the above order, as older polar politics coincided with the first three Ice Age periods and the second last Middle Ages, the Middle Pale Politics was at the same time as the beginning of the last Ice Age and the upper pale politics with the climax and the end of it.

During the last century, it became clear that the Paleolithic cultures have a widespread in Africa and Asia, and developments are not everywhere the same. The upper paleolithic cultures have, for example, a more limited spread to Europe, Central and West Asia and North Africa. In order to fix the ever-expanding material, a number of new and more locally-embraced groups have to be set up. At the same time, more emphasis is placed on the classification of the material in the core, spotted and wing cultures (Abbeville, Acheuléen, Levalloisien, Clactonien) according to the various types of tiling techniques in the manufacture of flint and stone tools.

Previously, the so-called microliter was considered a hallmark of Mesolithic cultures, but now it has become clear that these are merely a special and widely used method of making stone and stone tools in late and post-glass time.

The name neolithic is reserved for stone-age culture groups whose economy is mainly based on agriculture and livestock, unlike the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, which is still at a pure hunter-fisherman’s stage. However, it has become clear that cultural groups of this nature continued through younger stone alder in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in Europe, some places down to the early Iron Age.

Related material from limited areas has often been organized in “cultures” and groups. This applies, for example, to a number of Neolithic cultures. You speak for example. about funeral culture and band-ceramic culture. Similarly, in the Bronze Age and early Iron Age, you can separate local cultural groups. Some of the most important discussions in archeology are, however, whether they correspond to real divorced societies, or whether changes in forms and types from group to group are due to immigration of new peoples (migration), changes in economic conditions, or so-called cultural loans and impulses due to peaceful intercourse ( diffusion ).

The trend in prehistoric archeology is to add more cultural-historical approaches to the study. In determining the use of objects and the religious, social and economic foundations of the foundations, it is sought to provide a more complete picture of the cultural conditions and other humanities.

 Classical archeology

Classical archeology

The classical archeology includes the study of memorials and discoveries from the historically famous cultural communities of the Mediterranean and the Middle East until the Roman Empire’s collapse in the 400’s AD.

From the Renaissance, there were systematically excavations, and also regular riots, of antique monuments to art collections, and many of the European museums finest pieces were brought for the day at this time. Until the middle of the 1700s, interest was mainly directed towards Roman and Greek culture, and from the mid-18th-century exploration and study trips to Italy, Greece and Western Asia were conducted mostly English and French amateurs. From the late 1800’s, more scientific methods were put into use. The basic scientific work was primarily carried out by German researchers ( J. Winckelmann, B. Niebuhr, Eduard Gerhard), and in 1829 Germans founded an archaeological institute in Rome, which later became a model for a number of archaeological institutes there, in Athens and elsewhere.

Classical archeology collaborates closely with historical and philological research and is run in part as a pure art historical science. A fundamental importance for the exploration of the ancient civil society in the Middle East was the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 1820s (see Rosettasteinen and J.-F. Champollion ). During the 19th century, they became different coding systems in Persian, Elamitic, Semitic and Sumerian languages suggested. Later, through archaeological investigations, the discovery and interpretation of a number of other languages and writing systems in the Middle East, some have not yet been suggested ( Minoisk linear A, and Indus culture ). This led to a strong interest in the study of the older cultures in this area and led to the separation of special branches of classical archeology, under the name of Egyptology and Assyriology. The first was run by French scientists during the majority of the 19th century, investigating a number of temples and graves in Egypt, especially the royal pyramid and rock graves. The richest of these, Tutankhamon’s tomb, was first discovered by by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922.

From the 1890s, a more systematic process of the Egyptian material began. German, French and British institutes, later also American, also sent expeditions that examined the most famous memorials and townships ( tells ) in Mesopotamia, Persia and Syria , most famous are the excavations of the rich kingdoms of Ur from approx. 3000 BC In particular, a large number of larger and smaller excavations have been carried out in the Middle East and West Asia, so the knowledge of the prehistoric and historical cultural development has been extensively expanded, all the way back to the oldest rural communities from 6000-7000 BC. The Surveys from Jericho inPalestine and Jarmo in Iraq during the 1950s have been particularly important for understanding the oldest agricultural practices. Finally, the discovery of the 1920s of the highly developed urban communities in western India from the third and fourth millennium BC is mentioned. (see Indus culture ).

From the 1870s, the familiarity of the classical era was also extended through major systematic excavations in Greece , Asia Minor , Italy and Central Europe . Best known are the German and French excavations in Olympia , Delphi and Delos , Italians in Rome , Ostia , Herculaneum and Pompeii and the Americans in Athens . The study of the prehistoric cultural communities in these areas has also been carried out by classical archaeologists. From the 1820’s, the Italians systematically examined memorials and graves from the Etruscanculture in the first millennium BC. In 1871 the Germans began their excavations in Troy , later in the Mycenae and Tiryns , and in 1900 the British investigations in Crete ( AJ Evans ) followed . This led to the discovery of the Mycenaean culture from 1300-800 BC, and the only older Minoan in Greece and Crete .

Already around 1900, Greek divers made rich discoveries of classical sculpture under the sea surface, and became aware that there was a very rich archaeological material on the seabed. Marine archeology , or submarine archeology, has subsequently gained importance, not least as a result of improved technology. Of particular interest have been the discovery of great statues and other objects outside of Alexandria , Egypt ; The findings in the late 1990s have both been linked to the lighthouse of Faros and to Queen Cleopatra.

Medieval archaeology

Medieval archaeology

Medieval archaeology can be seen as the shadow of classical archeology. Like classic archeology, medieval archeology has its prerequisites in the Italian Renaissance, but in a more negative way. It was then the medieval term was created as a term for the «due date» between ancient times and contemporary times. As a period, the Middle Ages are used in all parts of Europe that lack an ancient history. It stands for Christian Europe. However, the time frames differ from region to region.

Studies of medieval monuments started already in the 17th century when antiques became aware of churches from the middle ages. In Sweden, churches were depicted parallel to burial mounds and runestones, and in Britain, John Aubrey created the first typology of medieval architecture already in 1670.

In the mid-1800s, several of the time’s leading architects worked with the restoration of medieval art and architecture. This resulted in a fundamental material knowledge of the medieval monuments. The Frenchman EE Viollet-le-Duc published for example. a tibind’s work on French medieval architecture. In Germany, a systematic publication of data on all historical monuments, and in Denmark, began started in 1873 inventory in each parish of memorials from prehistoric times and medieval times. Already in the 1820s, a large number of Danish churches were inspected and building details, artistic ornaments, and furniture were documented. Archaeological excavations began seriously during the 1920s, and a number of the country’s most significant medieval monuments, citizen, and large monasteries were excavated. From 1950 there were also excavations under the parquet floor.

The development in Norway is fairly parallel to Denmark. The architect and archaeologist Gerhard Fischer undertook for example. excavations and investigations in the Old City of Oslo, and also by a large number of churches, monasteries and castle resorts in different parts of the country. Later others followed up with surveys under the floor of medieval churches.

A first change in the sight of the Middle Ages and its monuments came about. 1900. The monuments were now perceived as historical documents that could reflect a long and complex history, and the interest in their function increased. Middle-aged archeology gradually emerged as its own discipline in the interwar period. Initially, the business was perceived as complementary to the written texts.

Solberg, Bergljot. (2018, 20 February). Archeology. In the big Norwegian dictionary. From https://snl.no/arkeology.

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