Archaeology is the study of past cultures through the material (physical) remains people left behind. These can range from small artifacts, such as arrowheads, to large buildings, such as pyramids. Anything that people created or modified is part of the archaeological record.
Archaeologists use these remains to understand and re-cre-ate all aspects of past culture, from the daily lives of ordinary people to the grand conquests of emperors. Often, these objects are buried and have to be carefully uncovered or excavated before they can be studied. In many cases, they are the only clues archaeologists have to help them reconstruct the lives of ancient people. These objects are like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle that the archaeologist must solve.
Archaeology helps us to appreciate and preserve our shared human heritage. It informs us about the past, helps us understand where we came from, and shows us how people lived, overcame challenges, and developed the societies we have today.
The focus of archaeology has changed over the years. Archae-ologists today study everything from ancient pots to DNA to theories of cognitive processes. This expanded scope of archaeology has necessitated the creation of many new interpretive approaches and recovery techniques. While the trowel continues to be a primary tool, archaeologists have also added satellite imagery, computers, and robotics to their arsenal. Excavations now often include dozens of experts from varied disciplines, including ceramics, osteology, geol-ogy, and botany, as well as research technicians with highly specialized talents.
Material culture :
When we talk about culture, we mean the behavior and beliefs of groups of people. These cannot be excavated directly, although they influence the physical remains, material culture, that archaeologists find. These remains range from stone tools to buildings to written records. Features are remains that can-not be moved (large buildings, post holes), while artifacts are smaller, portable objects.
The preservation of material culture depends on the type of materials (organic, which decay more quickly, or inorganic) and the environmental conditions to which they have been exposed. Materials deposited in the open are affected by factors such as rain, sun, snow, wind, and other natural phenomena. Buried materials are usually better preserved than those exposed to the environment. Dry conditions generally preserve remains better than wet, although the airlessness of bogs and other underwater conditions can also preserve many objects. In rare circumstances freezing, in mountaintop glaciers or tundra, can also preserve sites, artifacts, and even human remains.
Types of archaeology :
There are many branches of archaeology, some of which over-lap. Prehistoric archaeologists deal with time periods before the invention of writing. Historical archaeologists have the luxury of examining both physical remains and texts (when they survive). Industrial archaeologists study buildings and remains that date to the period after the Industrial Revolu-tion. Archaeologists generally choose to focus on a particular culture that often is associated with a chronological period: classical archaeology covers the civilizations affected by the Greeks and Romans, Egyptian archaeology deals with Egypt, Mesoamerican archaeology focuses on cultures in Central America and Mexico, and so on.