Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short by Paul Bahn

By Paul Bahn

This wonderful very brief advent displays the iconic approval for archaeology-a topic which appeals as a hobby, profession, and educational self-discipline, encompasses the full globe, and surveys 2.5 million years. From deserts to jungles, from deep caves to mountain tops, from pebble instruments to satellite tv for pc photos, from excavation to summary concept, archaeology interacts with approximately any other self-discipline in its makes an attempt to reconstruct the prior.

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In any case, archaeologists do not really need to know much about them – since most of them have difficulty understanding the scientific principles behind the pedal-bin, they have a touching and often misplaced faith in the ability of the boffins, the ‘hard scientists’, to take the samples of material provided and produce a suitable set of dates. One’s confidence in the laboratories is not helped is usually asked to say, in advance, what kind of figure is expected! Nevertheless, as long as archaeologists know the rudiments about which methods exist, and the materials and age-range to which they are applicable, they can simply concentrate on more important issues like seeking sealed and undisturbed contexts, taking samples with extreme care, avoiding contamination, and raising the often considerable funds needed to pay the laboratories for the analyses.

Another example comes from the Anasazi, who lived in the American South-West. Their settlements at Chaco Canyon were very advanced, Archaeology and contained America’s largest and highest buildings until the skyscraper. Begun in the tenth century ad, these structures used up the timber from more than 200,000 pines and firs. Plant remains cemented into crystallized urine in ancient packrat middens have provided a view of changes in the local vegetation over time, and it is clear that relentless woodcutting went on for centuries, not only for building materials but also to meet the fuel demands of a growing population.

Don’t imagine that decipherment is a dying art – it is still very much alive and kicking. It is only in the last few years that the complex Maya script of Mesoamerica has begun to be properly understood after a century of cumulative research efforts, and the far rarer ‘rongorongo’ script from Easter Island, which only survives on 25 pieces of wood, has been cracked – at least in terms of its structure and general content – within the past couple of years. But there is still plenty of work to be done, and the still undeciphered Linear A (of the Aegean) and the Indus 48 script (of ancient India and Pakistan) are still major challenges for enthusiasts who wish to tease their brains.

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