What do you often think of whenever it comes to Archaeology? I bet Archaeology often evokes the images of something excitingly exotic to you. Indeed, when you turn the History Channel, you are likely to catch the sight of famous places like Egyptian pyramids, Chinese tombs, or Babylon. They are valuable and people should treat it with respect I agree. However, maybe such places and sights are so majestic that they cover something much more important. That is the fact: a place has a past and every past is important. The article is going to aim at the value of archaeology.
What is Archaeology?
Many people think archaeology includes the task of excavating and bringing to the museum. It’s true but it isn’t sufficient. In fact, it consists of many phases and the excavation is the starting phase. Archaeology is the study of the human behavior through the ancient items/objects that we find. Those items can be as small as the needle or as big as a building. Whatever it might be, as long as it is the artifact, it’s worth studying and analyzing. The artifacts are the proof of the lives before us. They are the only physical things connecting us to the past.
Archaeology includes of two main groups: prehistoric and historic archaeology. Prehistoric archaeology is the study of the traditional cultures with no written system or certain language. Although they didn’t write about their culture, they left remains like tools, ceremonial objects, pottery, etc. Historic archaeology, on the other hand, is the study of the culture with written language. The materials that historic archaeology focuses on are maps, diaries, courts, tax, etc. By combining both artifacts and textual materials, archaeologists gain better understanding of human behavior and the past generally.
The Value of Archaeology
Predict and Plan for the future
What do you think is the supreme goal of archaeology? It is to understand how and why the behavior of the human doesn’t remain the same. In other word, the goal of archaeology is to answer the questions why behavior of the human changes over time. Archaeologists research both minor and major changes of significant cultural events like the development of farm land, the merge of cities, the collapse of civilization, etc. They do this because they want to know why these events occurred. From the lessons of the past, they can predict how our cultures will change and how to plan for better future. That is the first value of archaeology
Besides being such a macro study, archaeology offers us a vivid account of an ancient time and heritage to cultures. Without archaeology, nothing about the prehistoric people would be known in this day and age. Moreover, archaeology can depict the life of people like slaves, coal miners, etc. Although these people had no voice in their society, their daily life could reflect a part of the history. Sadly, historians didn’t show them much favor and sorted them out of their pieces of writing. It’s very different from us because we are now documenting everything in books or Internet for example. But there is definitely a difference between what is written and what people really do. The mass media often reveal their bias which somehow distorts the truth. That is to say, useful as it can be, textual materials can be produced based on objective viewpoint.
For the future generations
The past belongs to the cultural heritage. And how we use it for the future generation is an important role for archaeologists. Understanding human behavior change from the past helps us to know more about the past. It even helps us in planning, but not for the far future, for the upcoming generation indeed.
How to Examine The Past?
Archaeological sites are the places with traces of human activities. Most of the time, they are the concentration of many artifacts. Excavation of such sites requires time and effort. It is the destructive process with systematic removal of soil and artifacts. Similar to research in labs, archaeology is to collect data, record, and analyze. Excavating and analyzing help archaeologists to search for and understand more about the changes of human behavior.
Archaeological sites are non-renewable. Once they are destroyed or excavated, they are no longer the same. The loss is too significant. After all, it is not about the geographic place or physical items. It’s about the human. Our decisions upon the future depends much on the lessons we learn from the people who came before us. Don’t neglect the value of archaeology and don’t overlook what once happened. The legacy from the ancient people are too valuable to lose.