A History of Archaeology (2022)

The exact origins of archaeology as a disciplined study are uncertain.
Excavations of ancient monuments and the collection of antiquities have been taking place for thousands of years. The terms "excavations" ond "collection" can, however, cover a multitude of scenarios. In ancient times the Tombs of the Pharaohs of Egypt were looted by graverobbers who probably hoped for financial gain through sale of their plunder.
We can contrast this with the endeavours of the Italian Renaissance humanist historian, Flavio Biondo, who created a systematic and documented guide to the ruins and topography of ancient Rome in the early 15th century.
Flavio Biondo, is seen by posterity a candidate for consideration as an early founder of archaeology. He was a man of his times, Renaissance means rebirth and the rebirth those involved in the Renaissance hoped for was the rebirth of Human Achievement such as the ancients of the Classical Age of Greece and Rome had been capable of. Thus Biondo was inclined to treat the ruins and topography of ancient Rome with great respect.

Such excavations and investigations as took place over ensuing centuries tended to be haphazard; the importance of concepts such as stratification and context were usually completely overlooked. King Charles of the Two Sicilies employed Marcello Venuti, an antiquities expert in 1738, to excavate by methodical approach, the ancient city of Herculaneum. This first supervised excavation of an archaeological site was likely the birth of modern archaeology.

In America, Thomas Jefferson, as he reported in his "Notes on the State of Virginia" by Jefferson (completed in 1781), supervised the systematic excavation of an Native American burial mound on his land in Virginia in 1781, (or perhaps slightly earlier). Although Jefferson's investigative methods were ahead of his time (and have earned him the nickname from some of the "father of archaeology"), they were primitive by today's standards. He did not simply dig down into the mound in the hope of "finding something"; he cut a wedge out of it in order to examine the stratigraphy. The results did not inspire his contemporaries to do likewise, and they generally continued to hack away indiscriminately at the deposited remains of ancient settlements, - ( aka "tell" sites), in the Middle East, at barrows and tumuli in Europe, and at ancient mounds in North America, destroying valuable archaeological material in the process.

In 1801, an army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was deployed in an Egyptian campaign. Napoleon brought some five hundred civilian scientists, specialists in fields such as biology, chemistry and languages, in order to carry out a full study of the ancient civilisations of Egypt. In these times some soldiers rebuilding a fort discovered an unusual stone on which ancient scripts were engraved. This stone, known to posterity as the Rosetta Stone, caused great excitement amongst the scholars attached to Napoleon's army.
Several decades later the work of Jean-Francois Champollion in deciphering the Rosetta stone led to the discovery of the hidden meaning of hieroglyphics. This discovery proved to be the key to the study of Egyptology.

(Video) History of Archaeology

Egyptology has since become a celebrated and prolific branch of classical archaeology because of the amount and quality of material that have been well preserved in the dry Egyptian climate,

In 1803, there was widespread criticism of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin for removing the "Elgin Marbles" from their original location as a frieze on the Parthenon in Athens. Back in England these marble sculptures themselves tended to be valued, even by his critics, only for their aesthetic qualities, not for the information they might yield about Greek civilisation.

It was only as the 19th century continued, however, that the systematic study of the past through its physical remains began to be carried out in a manner recognisable to modern students of archaeology.
Richard Colt-Hoare (1758-1838) turned his attention to recording the past of the countryside surrounding his estate at Stourhead in Wiltshire which he published in a book entitled Ancient Historie of Wiltshire in 1812.
In his reporting of his investigations and ecavations of such neolithic barrows as Silbury Hill used terminology that was later adopted by other archaeologists. Colt-Hoare made meticulous recordings of his discoveries and preferred to use a trowel for careful excavation.

(Video) History of Archaeology (FullScreen, HD)

Archaeology was continued as an amateur pastime pursued, in later years, by persons such as Augustus Pitt-Rivers who collected many artifacts during his early career as a colonial soldier to which he added further finds from a large estate he had inherited complete with numerous prehistoric features. Pitt-Rivers extensive personal collection of artifacts was used by him to develop a typology scheme for dating archaeological remains. The Pitt-Rivers collection forms the nucleus of a museum named after him, in Oxford.

William Flinders Petrie is another man who may legitimately be called the Father of Archaeology. His work in Egypt developed the concept of seriation, which permitted accurate dating long before scientific methods were available to corroborate his chronologies. He was also a meticulous excavator and scrupulous record keeper and laid down many of the ideas behind modern archaeological recording.

The next major figure in the development of archaeology in the UK was Mortimer Wheeler, whose highly disciplined approach to excavation and systematic coverage of much of Great Britain in the 1920s and 1930s brought the science on swiftly. It was not until the introduction of modern technology from the 1950s onwards that a similar leap forward would be made in field archaeology. Wheeler's method of excavation, laying out the site on a grid pattern, though gradually abandoned in favour of the open-area method, still forms the basis of excavation technique.

(Video) What is archaeology: understanding the archaeological record

Meanwhile, the work of Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in Crete had shed light on the Minoan civilisation. Many of the finds from this site were catalogued and brought to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where they could be studied by classicists, while an attempt was made to reconstruct much of the original site. Although this was done in a manner that would be considered inappropriate today, it helped raise the profile of archaeology considerably.

Archaeology was increasingly becoming a professional activity. Although the bulk of an excavation's workforce would still consist of volunteers, it would normally be led by a professional. It was now possible to study archaeology as a subject in universities and even schools, and by the end of the 20th century nearly all professional archaeologists, at least in developed countries, were graduates.

Undoubtedly the major technological development in 20th century archaeology was the introduction of radiocarbon dating, based on a theory first developed by American scientist Willard Libby in 1949. Despite its many limitations (compared to later methods it is inaccurate; it can only be used on organic matter; it is reliant on a dataset to corroborate it; and it only works with remains from the last 10,000 years), the technique brought about a revolution in archaeological understanding. For the first time, it was possible to put reasonably accurate dates on discoveries such as bones. Other developments, often spin-offs from wartime technology, led to other scientific advances. For field archaeologists, the most significant of these was the use of the geophysical survey, enabling an advance picture to be built up of what lies beneath the soil, before excavation even commences. The entire Roman town of Viroconium, modern day Wroxeter in England, has been surveyed by these methods, though only a small portion has actually been excavated.

(Video) The History of Archaeology

When people "took to the skies" in hot-air baloons and aircraft it began to allow the discernment of previously undiscovered features in the landscape - particularly in dry weather when underlying building materials and foundations could influence the degree to which surface vegetation would suffer from drought-related stress.

The skies have not proven to be the limit, however, as satellites and people have ventured into near-earth orbits allowing remote-sensing technologies to be developed whereby Archaeological investigations can be pursued by interpreting imagery gathered relating to infra-red andother regions of the light spectrum.

Traditional archaeologists - working on the ground - often find it difficult to know where to focus particular investigative efforts. With theaid of insights gained through the interpretation of imagery gained through remote-sensing from space probable areas of interest can be identified for closer study.


A History of Archaeology
Giovanni Belzoni Flinders Petrie
Howard Carter Heinrich Schliemann
Rosetta Stone
Antikythera Mechanism
Sarah Parcak ~ Space ArchaeologistArchaeology from space
Dr Sarah Parcak discoveriesspace satellite remote sensing
Point Rosee - North AmericanNorse or Viking settlement sites
Understanding the Past and Present. Why is the World the way it is today?
The Importance of History. Why do we study History? Why is History important? Quotations


What is history example of archaeology? ›

One of the most famous examples of historic archaeology is the discovery and decipherment of the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone is a large slab of marble discovered near Rashid, Egypt, by French archaeologists in 1799. It became an important tool of historic archaeology.

What is archaeology in history Short answer? ›

Archaeology is the study of the ancient and recent human past through material remains. Archaeologists might study the million-year-old fossils of our earliest human ancestors in Africa. Or they might study 20th-century buildings in present-day New York City.

Who is father of archaeology? ›

The father of archaeological excavation was William Cunnington (1754–1810).

Who is No 1 archaeologists in the world? ›

1. Louis And Mary Leakey. Louis and Mary Leakey have often been called the first family of paleolithic-era anthropology, and for good reason. Married in 1936, they went on to work on some of their most influential projects together, and are together responsible for a huge chunk of our understanding of human evolution.

What are the types of archaeology? ›

*Most of our archaeology field schools fall under more than one specialization listed below.
  • Field Archaeology. ...
  • Prehistoric Archaeology. ...
  • Classical Archaeology. ...
  • Near Eastern/ Biblical Archaeology. ...
  • Historical Archaeology. ...
  • Bioarchaeology. ...
  • Underwater Archaeology. ...
  • Cultural Resource Management.

What are the 3 goals of historical Archaeology? ›

The goals of archaeology are to document and explain the origins and development of human culture, understand culture history, chronicle cultural evolution, and study human behaviour and ecology, for both prehistoric and historic societies.

Who was the first female archaeologist? ›

Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod

Why is archaeology so important? ›

Archaeology provides us with the opportunity to learn about past cultures through the study of artifacts, animal bones and sometimes human bones. Studying these artifacts helps to provide us with some insight about what life was like for people who left behind no written record.

What is the purpose of archaeology? ›

The goal of archaeology is to understand how and why human behavior has changed over time. Archaeologists search for patterns in the evolution of significant cultural events such as the development of farming, the emergence of cities, or the collapse of major civilizations for clues of why these events occurred.

Which city was first discovered by archaeologists? ›

Harappa was the first site to be discovered by archaeologists.

Who founded archaeology in India? ›

Archaeological pursuits started much earlier, in the 18th century, when Sir William Jones formed the Asiatic Society in 1784 together with a group of antiquarians. Alexander Cunnigham is also known as the 'Father of Indian Archaeology'.

Who started archeology in India? ›

Scholarly investigation into Indian archaeology was largely influenced by Alexander Cunningham, who became the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, which was established in 1861. Cunningham along with various assistants visited many sites and monuments of archaeological importance in India.

Who is the youngest archaeologist? ›

Meet 17-year-old Arsh Ali, India's youngest archaeologist.

Who was the greatest archaeologist of all time? ›

1. Edward Drinker Cope (1840 - 1897) With an HPI of 66.70, Edward Drinker Cope is the most famous Archaeologist.

What are the 4 branches of archeology? ›

  • Preparation.
  • Digging.
  • Record keeping.
  • Preservation.

What are the 3 types of archaeologist? ›

Medieval archaeology is the study of post-Roman European archaeology until the sixteenth century. Post-medieval archaeology is the study of material culture in Europe from the 16th century onwards. Modern archaeology is the study of modern society using archaeological methods, e.g. the Tucson Garbage Project.

When was archaeology invented? ›

Archaeology proper began with an interest in the Greeks and Romans and first developed in 18th-century Italy with the excavations of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

What time period is historical Archaeology? ›

Historical Archaeology explores the material remains of the last 2,000 years - the period for which texts and document sources exist. Understanding and analysing these sources enables us to understand human lives, from the spread of the Roman Empire to everyday life for the Vikings.

What is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites? ›

Located just outside of the outskirts of Cairo on the esplanade known as the Giza Plateau, the Great Pyramids of Giza is Egypt's most famous archaeological site.

What is the difference between prehistoric and historic Archaeology? ›

Prehistoric archaeology is the study of civilizations and their artifacts prior to written records and the archaeologist must exercise some judgment in the educated guesses to assign meaning to unfamiliar artifacts. Historic archaeology is the study of civilizations after the invention of writing.

What percent of archaeologists are female? ›

Share this Research

Employers reported that 47% of archaeologists working for them in 2019-20 were women and 53% men.

Who is the father of Indian archeology? ›

Sir Alexander Cunningham, (born Jan. 23, 1814, London, Eng. —died Nov. 28, 1893, London), British army officer and archaeologist who excavated many sites in India, including Sārnāth and Sānchi, and served as the first director of the Indian Archaeological Survey.

What to study to become an archaeologist? ›

Earn a bachelor's degree

You have to complete an undergraduate program and earn your bachelor's degree in anthropology or any other related field like geography and history. You can enrol in a B.A. Archaeology program after completing your higher secondary education (10+2).

Is studying archaeology hard? ›

It's not hard, but it's also not easy. There's a lot of reading and some of it is really dull, especially things like site reports, and anything written by Binford! career prospects are quite poor. we had a lecture about it and out of 61 courses the archaeology graduates were paid the least.

What tools did archaeologists use? ›

equipment they need to perform precise excavations. Tools found in a typical archaeological toolbox include dental picks, trowels, brushes, measuring tapes, line levels, storage bags, pens, and pencils. conjunction with a tape measure that allows for more precise measurements to be taken on an archaeological site.

What is it like to study archaeology? ›

The study of archaeology will combine lots of learning styles and environments into one course, as much of archaeology as a profession calls for adapting in real-time. One day you might be reading ancient dusty books in a library, the next you might be crawling through caves to uncover ruins.

What is the difference between archeology and archaeology? ›

Archaeology is the standard spelling throughout the English-speaking world, even in American English, where the a is dropped from many words traditionally containing ae (or æ, as it used to be rendered). Archeology is a somewhat common variant.

What type of science is archaeology? ›

Archaeology is the study of the human past. in the United states, archaeology is considered a subdiscipline of anthropology, the study of people, whereas in europe, archaeology is linked more closely to history.

What is archaeological evidence? ›

The archaeological record is a term used in archaeology to denote all archaeological evidence, including the physical remains of past human activities which archaeologists seek out and record in an attempt to analyze and reconstruct the past. In the main it denotes buried remains unearthed during excavation.

Where is the oldest place on Earth? ›

Dating to around 3.6 billion years ago, the Pilbara region of Western Australia is home to the fossilised evidence of the Earth's oldest lifeforms.

What is the oldest city on earth? ›

Jericho, Palestine

A small city with a population of 20,000 people, Jericho, which is located in Palestine, is believed to be the oldest city in the world. Indeed, some of the earliest archeological evidence from the area dates back 11,000 years.

What is the oldest place in the world? ›

Jericho, West Bank

Jericho, a city in the Palestine territories, is a strong contender for the oldest continuous settlement in the world: it dates back to around 9,000 B.C., according to Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Who is the biggest archaeologist in India? ›

Braj Basi Lal, better known as 'BB Lal' was born in 1921, in Jhansi in the United Provinces in British India, and is one of independent India's most prolific archaeologists. He trained under legendary archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler in 1950-52, on sites like Taxila, Harappa and Sisupalgarh.

What are the five archaeological sites? ›

The Union government has proposed to set up an Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation under the Ministry of Culture, and develop five archaeological sites as “iconic sites” with onsite museums in Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Hastinapur (Uttar Pradesh), Sivsagar (Assam), Dholavira (Gujarat) and Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu) ...

Which is the first archaeological site in India? ›

Rock art, engravings, and tools in recently discovered caves and rock shelters in Mangar Bani, near Delhi, are probably from the Paleolithic era, and may be India's oldest archaeological find.

What is the oldest archaeological site in the world? ›

What is this? In 2012, following several decades of research and excavations, researchers revealed that humans were living in Theopetra Cave over 135,000 years ago, making it the oldest archaeological site in the world.

What are archaeological sources? ›

Archaeological sources include buildings, houses, pottery, seals , coins, monuments , writings and paintings on stones or walls , tools, jewellery, bones, leftovers, pieces of metals and other artefacts.

How many archeological sites are in India? ›

With the Indus Valley civilization and several subsequent empires and kingdoms, India is one of the World's archaeological gems. Be it ancient forts or some of the world's oldest universities, India has more than a thousand archaeological sites – many of which are accessible to travellers and tourists.

Is archaeology a part of history? ›

History is the scholarly study of the past by the historians. Archaeology is a branch of study that tries to find information about the past by digging artifacts and trying to understand the sequence of events of the past. History includes authentic information about the past as and when it happened (and also why).

Why is archaeology important to history? ›

Archaeology provides us with the opportunity to learn about past cultures through the study of artifacts, animal bones and sometimes human bones. Studying these artifacts helps to provide us with some insight about what life was like for people who left behind no written record.

Is archeology a science or history? ›

Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In Europe it is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines, while in North America archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology.

How archaeology contribute to the study of history? ›

Archaeology is the study of past cultures. Archaeologists are interested in how people of the past lived, worked, traded with others, moved across the landscape, and what they believed. Understanding the past may help us better understand our own society and that of other cultures.

Who was the first female archaeologist? ›

Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod

Which city was first discovered by archaeologists? ›

Harappa was the first site to be discovered by archaeologists.

What are the four types of archaeological evidence? ›

All archaeological materials can be grouped into four main categories: (1) artifacts, (2) ecofacts, (3) structures, and (4) features associated with human activity.

What is the aim of archaeology? ›

The goal of archaeology is to understand how and why human behavior has changed over time. Archaeologists search for patterns in the evolution of significant cultural events such as the development of farming, the emergence of cities, or the collapse of major civilizations for clues of why these events occurred.

What tools did archaeologists use? ›

equipment they need to perform precise excavations. Tools found in a typical archaeological toolbox include dental picks, trowels, brushes, measuring tapes, line levels, storage bags, pens, and pencils. conjunction with a tape measure that allows for more precise measurements to be taken on an archaeological site.

What are examples of how archaeology can be useful today? ›

There are many aspects of archaeology that yield practical benefits in the present, from developing sites for cultural tourism to creating the raw material for museum exhibits to promoting social justice for marginalized groups.

Is archeology a good career? ›

Archaeology can be a great career, but it doesn't pay very well, and there are distinct hardships to the life. Many aspects of the job are fascinating, though—in part because of the exciting discoveries that can be made.

Who are called archaeologists? ›

An archaeologist is a scientist who studies human history by digging up human remains and artifacts. Lucy, the oldest human known to man — nearly 3.2 million years old — was dug up in Ethiopia by archaeologist.

What is the difference between archaeology and archeology? ›

For some archaeologists, the two spellings symbolize competing aspects of the field. The supposedly antiquated spelling with the “ae” is supposed to connote classical or a humanist-oriented archaeology, while the supposedly modern “e” is thought to suggest anthropological or a social science-oriented practice.

What are the disadvantages of archaeology? ›

Because archaeology deals with physical relics, it has a level of legitimacy that no other human science can match. Archaeological excavations are quite costly because if useful evidence of the past is found in part of the region, the entire region must be investigated or dug.

What are archeological sources? ›

The physical remains or ruins of the things used or the constructed structures in the past are called archaeological sources.


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