Archaeology is a romantic subject, redolent of lost civilizations and grinning skeletonsdripping with gold, the realm of pith-helmeted men and women who are adventurers and scholars at the same time – of movies like the Indiana Jones adventures. But is this reality? Most archaeologists have never worn a pith helmet, have never discovered gold, and will never unearth a long-forgotten civilization. Nor do most archaeological sites yield rich treasure or even human remains. The romance is not always there, but the world of modern archaeology is deeply fascinating all the same. This book is a journey through that world in all its intriguing diversity. It is designed to give you some idea of how archaeologists go about studying human behavior in the past.
This twelfth edition of Archaeology: A Brief Introduction is a brief narrative introduction to the fundamental principles of method and theory in archaeology, beginning with the goals of archaeology, going on to consider the basic concepts of culture, time, and space, and discussing the finding and excavation of archaeological sites. The last six chapters summarize some of the ways in which archaeologists order and study their finds, as well as the management of the past for future generations. Throughout the book, we emphasize the ethics behind archaeology, ending with a discussion of careers in archaeology and how we should act as stewards of the finite records of the human past. This is a book with an ardently international perspective, for archaeology is the most global of all sciences, encompassing all humanity, not just, say, North America or Europe. To study archaeology solely from, say, a European, North American, or any other vantage point is pointless. You miss so much.
Most readers will encounter this simple book as a supplement to an introductory anthropology course or as part of a broader archaeology offering. It is designed for complete beginners, so every attempt has been made to keep technical jargon to a minimum. Inevitably, a book of this length and scope glosses over many complex problems and smoldering controversies. We have proceeded on the assumption that, at this stage, a positive overstatement is better than a complex piece of inconclusive reasoning. Errors of overstatement can always be corrected in class or at a more advanced stage.
If there is a theme to this volume, it is that the patterning of archaeological artifacts we find in the ground can provide valuable insights into human behavior in the past. In pursuing this theme, we have attempted to focus on the basic concepts of archaeology and leave the instructor to impose his or her own theoretical viewpoints on the various chapters that follow. In the interests of simplicity, too, we have drawn again and again on a few relatively well-known sites from New World and Old World archaeology, such as Olduvai Gorge and Teotihuacán, rather than distracting readers with a multitude of site names. Much of today’s archaeology comes under the heading of cultural resource management (CRM) rather than purely academic research. In case any instructors are wondering why this book emphasizes the academic over CRM, it is because the basic principles of the subject are common to both kinds of research. We believe that the reader is best served by discussions of well-known, classic sites, which he or she will encounter during courses anyhow. We have added brief descriptions of major sites in a special “Sites and Cultures” information section at the end of the book, where a glossary of technical terms will also be found.
1 Fossils, Cities, and Civilizations: The Birth of a Science 1
2 Introducing Archaeology and Prehistory 29
3 Culture and Context 56
4 Explaining the Past 76
5 Space and Time 100
6 They Sought It Here, They Sought It There: The Process of
Research and Finding Archaeological Sites 127
7 Excavation 155
8 Archaeological Classification and Ancient Technologies 184
9 The Present and the Past 214
10 Ancient Climate and Environment 238
11 Come Tell Me How You Lived 259
12 Settlement and Landscape 280
13 The Archaeology of People 305
14 Managing the Past 337
15 So You Want to Become an Archaeologist? 357