Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Description of Archaeology

Archaeology is the scientific study of past human culture and behavior from the remains, ruins and artifacts left behind. Some times archaeology and geology can clash because some times ruins and artifacts can be confused for geological features and vise versa.
Archaeology has a number of benefit of studying history apart from historical records because there are some things you can’t just learn about from historical records, such as art, physical characteristics, and architectural. Discovering things about history not found in written historical records since historical records only contain what is considered important and much of every day life is not considered important enough to be recorded. Discovering additional written records and confirming the existence of civilizations only written about by other civilizations. The most famous example of this is the discovery of Troy. Discovering civilizations not yet known and discovering things about groups that left no written records.

Archaeology’s biggest problem is the fact that many are not preserved because it is lost as it decays over time and is damaged by natural disasters. Artifacts are frequently destroyed by war and the accidental destruction by reuse of land.  They are also lost do to the carelessness of both non- scientists and scientists because archaeologists have not always been a careful as they should be. Sadly artifacts have been deliberately destroyed by both scientists and non- scientists. Being human scientists are not always honest, while this is not necessarily a big problem in that most archaeologists do not deliberately destroy artifacts but it is still occasionally a source of artifact loss. An example of non-scientists deliberately destroying artifacts is the fact that Moslems have a history destroying religions artifacts in countries they conquer. The looting of archaeological site is a major problem in some case. The further you look back in time the bigger this problem of the loss of archaeological artifacts becomes.

Government have often hindered archaeological research by blocking excavation and investigation other than by approved archaeologists so as to control access to potential digs. They have blocked the excavation and investigation of sites they don’t like. This includes the fencing off of a possible Mount Sinai site in Saudi Arabia. They further control evidence by demanding that artifacts discovered in their boarders be turned over to their officials. The reason given is to prevent the looting of National Treasures but it allows Governments to hide evidence that goes against their official view of history while allowing Governments to control access to the artifacts they have.

Artifacts do not interpreting themselves but are interpreted by way of a theoretical system. The accuracy of the interpretation is dependent on the accuracy of the theoretical system. Artifacts and ruins are easily dismissed if they do not fit the theoretical system being used because there are just too many different ways artifacts be interrelated. This is particularly true when sites are poorly preserved which can cause interpretation mistakes since the evidence that makes the difference can easily be lost. The discovered of sites by armatures can easily be dismissed since the claim can be they did not know what they were doing or that they messed up the site. Furthermore the theoretical systems used are based on philosophical assumptions.

Since archaeology is an historical science it is greatly influenced by philosophical assumptions. For example a purely naturalistic theoretical system requires assuming that any supernatural claims in history are mythological. The point is that the Philosophical Assumptions behind any claim needs to be understood.

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