Free «Development of Modern Archaeology» Essay Sample

Q1.  Development of Modern Archaeology

Archeology is the study of human activities in the past, mainly through analysis of the remains that were left behind. The material remains of the overpast culture are mainly treasures of architecture, which include bifocals, artifacts, and archeological records. The precise origin of archeology as a discipline is not known.  Collection of antiquities and the excavation of prehistoric monuments have been going on for thousands of years.

This subject originated from the efforts to gather artistic things of extinct communities. In Italy, the increasing interest in the ancient Greece led to the excavation of the Hellenic sculptures. Johann Winckelmann and Ennio Visconti advanced the progress of Roman and Greek archeology. In the Aegean region, the study of ancient cultures was stimulated by the excavations at Crete by Arthur Evans. Similar discovery was carried out in the area of ancient Troy by Heinrich Schliemann.

The foundations of Egyptology, an inexhaustible branch of classical archaeology due to its wealth of material conserved in the dry climate of Egypt, were created as a result of the recovery of the Rosetta stone. The French scholars who went with Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt also made a large contribution to Egyptology. In the 19th century, investigations that led to the reconstruction of lives and arts of ancient Egyptian society and rewriting of their history were conducted.



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The work done by Edward Robinson (1794–1863) stimulated interest in the Middle East. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at the beginning of 1947, biblical studies attracted new interest.

Excavation in the 19th century was focused on the cemeteries and the upstanding barrows most of the times. These sites fulfilled the desire for complete and rich artifact assemblages, which were used for further typological studies and displays.

In 1858, the Geological Society sponsored the Brixham Cave investigations while the British Association for the Advancement of Science sponsored those at Kent’s Cavern (from 1865 to 1880). The monopoly of the Ministry of Works as the sole funder of excavations was later broken by Peer Research Commission. Gerhard Bersu led the excavation of the Iron Age Settlements that were found at Little Woodbury. The methods used for this excavation were odd and included the use of large open area stripping method.

The archeology today is more concerned about the history of culture and the explanation of its processes. There are different both absolute and relative dating techniques that are usually applied. The modern archeology was born in Britain by 1950. This is the time when radio carbon dating conventionally dates "the present". The basis of carbon dating was established in the following decade. This is also the time when the earth moving machinery first started to be used, this innovation brought about large scale excavation. The modern archeology ingredients could be said to have been assembled when this innovation was combined with stratigraphy.

Q2 Aerial Reconnaissance Methods Used to Detect Archaeological Sites

Aerial reconnaissance or survey involves the use of satellite or an aircraft to come up with the images of the earth, which are then interpreted to give archeological information. This method gives one a raised, remote view point that gives an overview of the site and its archeological traces. This one of the most efficient techniques of prospection can be carried out at varying seasons of the year. The different details collected each time can be put together and create an overall view of an archeological landscape.

Methods of Aerial Survey

Conventional low altitude aerial photography is the main technique that is used for aerial survey. In this method, photos are taken either at an oblique angle or straight down. The vertical paragraphs give a plan view of the archeological site. Moreover, they are mainly used for mapping known sites. Oblique photographs are mostly employed for site detection since they show contours and perspective. Aerial photography can show a lot of things that cannot be seen at the ground level. These are shadows sites, which are only visible when there is low light in the early morning or late in the evening. Archeological traces can be seen in various ways on the surface of the earth. The difference in colors in the vegetation or the field, places covered by snow that melt earlier, as well as shade, difference in soil texture  among others indicate the existence of archeological site. These sites can be recognized from the air but cannot be viewed at the ground level. The archeological information in the photos is then transferred to composite maps that are readable and sufficiently accurate to be used by other archeologists. The mapping helps the archeologists to identify the areas that interest them so that they can carry out further investigation.

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Other methods used for aerial survey are expensive. These include thermography, SLAR and LANDSAT satellites.

Thermography uses heat sensors that are fixed on the plane to detect differences in temperatures. Sideways looking air borne radar (SLAR) uses electromagnetic radiation pulses from an aircraft that is flying high in the sky to record the land features. Clouds do not interfere with these images like in the normal photography.

LANDSAT satellite records the infrared radiations and intensity of reflected light from the surface of the earth and converts it to photographic images. These   images can be useful in large scale survey.

In regions where significant changes have occurred to the present and past landscapes, satellite remote sensing can be tricky. Mixing of the present and the past layers can create obstacles to imagery analysis from the space. Archeology relies on the survey to record and locate sites on the landscape.

Q4 Concepts and Main Methodologies of Archaeological Excavation

Concepts of archeological excavation include stratification, combining stratigraphic contexts for interpretation and phasing.


This is a vital and principal concept in excavation. It is mainly based on the law of superposition. When the archeological findings are below the surface, the identification of their location is essential to enable the archeologist to make conclusions about the site, and the date of its occupation. The location where these findings are discovered can be of considerable importance.

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More specifically, an archaeological context is an incident that happened in order to be kept in the archaeological record. For example, the cutting of a ditch and the material filling of the ditch are two different contexts.  When the site is separated into these discrete units, the archeologists can easily make the chronology of events and, therefore, interpret it.

Combining Stratigraphic Contexts for Interpretation

To understand the site in the modern archeology, the archeologist has to go through the process of grouping single contexts together in always larger groups by according to their relationships.

Phase and Phasing

This is the most understood grouping for the common man as it occurs near a contemporaneous archeological horizon, representing what could be seen if we went back to that time. A phase often entails the recognition of occupational surface that was there in the earlier time. The first goal in excavation and stratigraphic interpretation is a production of phase presentations.

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Methodologies Used in Archeologocal Excavation

Grid Excavation

This method played a key role in the archeology in Britain. It consists of a layout based upon a square or a series of squares, and a grid dug so that a balk is left between each pair of adjoining squares up to the extreme end of work. The size of the grid square was considered to be particularly beneficial. One key weakness of this method is that the length of a grid that is less than three meters highly increases the disadvantages of this approach. This method also prohibited the full interpretation of buildings made of timber.

Area Excavation

This was a natural method to be used on sites with shallow stratification. This method suits shallow or simply stratified sites, which made it be widely used in England. This method is capable of progressive expansion in all directions without impairing or breaking down the preliminary datum line. The method is also open to the sky so that it can be inspected easily in all required lengths.

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Q6 Ethnoarchaeology

Ethnoarcheology is a branch in archeology that deals with the study of the living people. It involves the use of ethnography in archeology. It can be defined as the ethnographic learning of different people for archeological reasons. This usually focuses on the basic remains of the society relative to its ethnicity. This study uses ethnologic information from those who are alive as an analogy to help understand people of the past. This area of archeology has been there for about 20-25 years. It is still a vibrant part of procession and other modern approaches in archeology. Early research on ethnoarcheology was more concerned with hunting and gathering societies. Ethnoarcheology helps the archeologists in recreating the ancient ways of life by studying non-material and material traditions of the modern society. The archeologists, therefore, are able to relate the past with the present given that the environmental circumstances are the same.

Ethnography can give insights on how the archeologists assess people’s way of living in the past, their cultural and social structures, as well as their religious outlook. However, it is unclear how these insights generated by anthropological investigations relate to the investigations conducted by the archeologists. This fact stays blurred because of the lack of relationship to the material remains discarded and created by the societies. There is also no exact explanation about the way how the materials change with differences of the community’s organization.

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This problem has made the archeologists argue that anthropology cannot answer problems in archeology. This is what has made the archeologists be occupied with the study of ethnoarcheology to solve these problems. These studies are concentrating more on the manufacture, use and abandonment of tools, equipment and other artifacts.

Some of the ethnoarcheological studies that have been done involve the research of Brian Hayden, in 1987. This study focused on the production of Mesoamerican quern-stones and insights on the manufacture of prehistoric quern stones. The other study is carried out on Population and Ancient Agriculture by Richard W. Yerkes.


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