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History of Archaeology. Early Development Archaeology as Science. First Archaeologists. Arch is made up of many disciplines, such as geology, geography, philosopy, sociology, chemistry, biology, etc. This can be seen as we look at the history of archaeology. Who were they?

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history of archaeology

History of Archaeology

Early Development

Archaeology as Science

first archaeologists
First Archaeologists
  • Arch is made up of many disciplines, such as geology, geography, philosopy, sociology, chemistry, biology, etc.
  • This can be seen as we look at the history of archaeology.
  • Who were they?
    • Requires definition, i.e. looters of Egyptian tombs? Grave robbers?
  • Study of human past through material remains, and looters were mostly doing it for money, not knowledge.
  • Beginning interest in past as early as Egyptians:
    • Nabonidus (555-538 B.C.)
    • Last King of Babylonian empire, rebuilt temples of ancient Babylon, sort of a preservationist.

Babylon, Iraq, Basalt Lion with Figures; Matson Collection, ca. 1932

Library of Congress

  • St. Augustine (480 A.D.)
    • teaching order of monks, developed the concept of nature.
    • observed small-scale change and argued that God created the world and infused it with life.
    • natural system of process and change.
  • Middle Ages (500-1300 A.D.)
    • Uncritical acceptance of biblical account, the past was known and discussed in the bible.
    • Genesis account of creation, dawn of humanity and diversity accounted for.
italian renaissance
Italian Renaissance
  • 1300-1500 A.D.
    • Rediscovery of the past, interest in the classical period.
    • Collection of statuary for artistic reasons produced interest in past and cultural identity.
  • Petrarch (1304-1374 A.D.)
    • Poet, remote past a period of ideal perfection.
  • Ciriaco (1391-1440 A.D.)
    • Considered by many to have established the modem discipline of archaeology. Translated the Latin inscription of the triumphal Arch of Trojan at Ancona, and was inspired to devote his life to study and collection of ancient monuments.
  • Interest in the antiquities of the classical civilizations became pastime of the wealthy as result of Renaissance.
  • This general interest led to appreciation of local antiquities.
  • Michael Mercati (1500s)
    • Librarian who worked for Medici mercantiles.
    • Mercati catlogued these, was interested in their similarities and differences.
    • Also found and collected stone tools from around Tuscani, Italy.
biblical accounts
Biblical Accounts
  • Archbishop James Ussher and Archbishop Lightfoot (1600s, Irish).
  • Using genealogical lists in bible and calculated that the world was created one the evening before October 23. 4004 B.C at 9:30 A.M.



early excavations
Early Excavations
  • Pompeii



geologists and antiquity of the earth
Geologists and Antiquity of the Earth
  • The eighteenth centuries were a time of massive construction (i.e. canals), revealing great exposures of the earths rocks-hence a period of development in Geology.
  • William "Strata" Smith (1769-1839)
    • first to recognize Earth made of layers.
    • Science of stratigraphy.
    • developed the Law of Superposition (layers on top are younger than lower layers).
  • Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)-French,
    • Father of Paleontology, worked out a geological history using fossils as type indicator of strata.
    • Index fossils
      • certain fossils associated with certain strata.
    • problem explaining change in fossils, but said bible accounts for this with floods or catastrophies.
  • James Hutton (1726-1797)
    • Believed appeal to catastrophies unnecessary.
    • processes acting today are same as in the past:Uniformitarianism
    • For example, erosion, weathering. earthquakes and volcanos all acting the
  • Charles Lyell (1797-1875)
    • published Principles of Geology (1830).
    • identified Hutton's theory of processes being the same as uniformitarianism.
    • Father of Geology. syntesized Law of Superposition and Uniformitarianism.
evolution and natural selection
Evolution and Natural Selection
  • It was established that life forms had changed, but how?
  • In order to be credible a mechanism was needed to explain this.
  • Charles Darwin-
    • Greatly influenced by geologists,
    • new forms explained by a "struggle for existence" in which those well adapted to a particular environment survive and the ill-adapted don't.
    • Accumulated favorable variations over a long period of time would result in new species, extinction of old species (Natural Selection).
  • On the Origin of Species (1859)
charles darwin
Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin ca. 1880

Claudio Toledo


the antiquity of humankind
The Antiquity of Humankind
  • Given the antiquity of the earth and a scheme by which life forms had changed, how old was the human species?
  • Jacques Boucher de Perthes-French customs official, collected stone implements and fossils along the Somme River.
    • association of extinct fauna and stone tools could not be explained with catastrophism.
    • Extreme antiquity of humankind.
    • published findings in 1847, was considered a heretic.
  • Later: Others investigated results and found them conclusive, established by 1860 the long and changing history of humankind.
archaeology as a new science
Archaeology as a New Science
  • Refinement of Archaeological Method
    • General A.H.L. Fox Pitt-Rivers (1800s)
      • wealthy English landowner, innovator of field methods.
      • recognized need for careful records, importance of vertical control (profiles), measurement of artifacts, interested in function and published results.
  • Development of North American Archaeology
speculative period 1492 1840
Speculative Period (1492-1840)
  • American archaeology mainly developed from social sciences (European: Physical sciences).
    • Interest in Native Americans
  • Discovery of America
    • Columbus (ca. 1492)
    • American Indians not human.
    • Early explorer accounts still used today as ethnographic analogies, such as DeSoto in the Southeast and the Labrador Coast. Called the new land Vinland, and left evidence of sod houses, some bronze and metal artifacts.
moundbuilding debate
Moundbuilding Debate

Cahokia, IL:

Monk’s Mound

Moundville, AL

Mound A

Poverty Point, LA

Mound B

who were the moundbuilders
Who were the Moundbuilders?
  • Explorations during speculative period led to discovery of ruins and mound centers with burials and artifacts.
  • *Mounds are found from 4000 to 500 years ago in the U.S., range from small conical burial mounds to huge platfoIlD mound centers (Cahokia) with ceremonial houses built on top of them. Could not have been built by savages, and these savages were for the most part ignorant of the moundbuilders because the moundbuUder cultures had dissipated primarily before contact.
  • Theories:
    • built by Danes who then migrated to Mexico and became Toltecs and Aztecs.
    • built by other, more civilized, but extinct Indians-the "lost race".
  • Thomas Jefferson
    • excavated some mounds, interested in their construction not really in who built them.
  • Cyrus Thomas
    • found them extremely well constructed and linked pottery in them to “modern” Indians-proving that the moundbuilders were the ancestors of the Indians today.
survey and testing 1840 1914
Survey and Testing (1840-1914 )
  • Advancements:
    • Developing and refining field methods
    • Developing and refining the study of artifacts
    • Classifying cultures
    • Defining sequences of cultures
  • Professionalization of the discipline began; there was a need felt to record rapidly vanishing information; and so there was the organization of local naturalist, historical, and scientific societies.
syntheses taxonomies and chronologies 1914 1940
Syntheses, Taxonomies, and Chronologies (1914-1940 )
  • Many new trends emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, in part spurred by the Great Depression and federally funded archaeology through the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
  • The main focus of the period was historical and chronological: and involved construction of taxonomies, area chronologies, and space-time charts; refinement of stratigraphic and seriational procedures, and rapid adoption of new absolute dating techniques (e.g. C-14 dating and dendro).
classificatory historical period context and function 1940 1960
Classificatory-Historical Period Context and Function (1940-1960)
  • In this period, archaeologists began to deal with Native cultures in terms of three concepts:
    • artifacts as behavior, pattern, and the environment, and the context and function of each of these concepts in the culture.
  • Other disciplines, such as geology, botany and biology, chemistry, and mathematics began to be more involved in the archaeological field during this period.
processualism 1960 present
Processualism (1960 – present)
  • There were two major trajectories:
    • Processual archaeology and Cultural Resource Management
  • Processual archaeology (the New Archaeology) was developed by Lewis Binford and others in the 1960s; with the motto "archaeology as anthropology"; The new focus was on the transformation of archaeological data into cultural data, a "behavioral" approach.
  • Cultural Resource Management (CRM) dominates North American archaeology at present, the result of national laws, such as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966; Its goal is to manage and conserve America's archaeological heritage.
postprocessualism 1990 present
Postprocessualism (1990-present)
  • From the middle of the modern period (1970’s), archaeologists began to be concerned more about human behavior and the study of Native American cultures.
  • Archaeology is not merely a science of material culture, but concerns of human beings and their cultural behavior in the past.
  • Includes concepts of:
    • Culture as interactive
    • Culture change must include women, ethnic minorities, illiterate (under-represented groups).
    • Archaeologists bring cultural biases to work, act as mediators of the past.
    • “The archaeology of the mind”
modern archaeology
Modern Archaeology
  • Combines concepts of culture history, processualism and post-processualism for understanding the past.
  • Employs modern techniques as well as tried and true methods of excavation.
  • Continues to utilize other disciplines, as well as anthropology, for a “holistic” approach.