is learning about ancient people, how they lived, what they looked like,
what tools they used and also learning about their culture. The word archaeology
comes from the Greek - it means the study of what is ancient and it's
pretty fascinating stuff! Archaeologists are the scientists who study
the remains of past civilizations or groups of people.
for the challenge?
Archaeology is a bit like putting a puzzle together that has lots of pieces
missing. It is kind of like being a treasure hunter but a lot
more like being a detective. Archaeologists look at the things people
from long ago have left behind. Archaeologists are interested in how people
lived, their houses, clothes, bones and even their garbage! In fact, a
garbage site is one of the best places to find artifacts of the past.
don't have as much excitement and danger in their lives as portrayed in
the movies, but it still can be pretty exciting when they do piece together
the puzzle and discover something new!
does an archaeologist know where to dig?
Over time, things and places get covered up and buried. When something
lays on the ground day after day, year after year, leaves fall on it,
dust blows, and little by little it slowly gets covered up. Before an
archaeologist conducts a dig, they do lots of research to determine where
they might start.
archaeologists know that people need certain things to help them stay
alive. These include easy access to water, trade and migration routes,
and food sources. With this knowledge and some research, archaeologists
can locate the most likely places where people may have lived.
farmers and builders, uncover something from the past and an archaeologist
comes in to help with the site. Archaeologists also look at buildings,
ruins, unusual mounds or sunken spots in the land. Sometimes, archaeologists
can tell where old roads or walls once stood by looking at aerial photography.
Other times, they can get clues from books and maps. All of these places
are potential places where an archaeologist might begin their research
when determining where they might conduct a dig.
Archaeologists always dig square holes? They dig in a scientific method
with neat, organized, square holes on a grid system. Being super organized
helps them keep records of where they make each find. That way, when they
go back to the lab with hundreds of pieces they can begin putting the
map together of all of the finds. This helps them develop a clearer picture
of what life must have been like during the time period they are studying.
does an archaeologist look for when they are digging?
Once an archaeologist locates a site, does the initial research and
gets permission to conduct a dig, that's when the work really begins!
Archaeologists look for lots of different things when they begin a
- The thing that
most people think of when they think about a dig are artifacts. Artifacts
are things like tools or things that people could have moved or carried.
Or what some people would consider to be the "buried treasure."
also look for evidence about past environments to find things like seeds,
animal bones and soil types. These types of finds are sometimes called
- They also look
for features or things that people made or did that can't be moved.
Things like walls, floors or fireplaces. These types of things are called
Although a dig or excavation is one of the most important and widely known
methods in archaeology, care has to be taken in its use. Archaeologists
know that excavations destroy a site, so they only sample or excavate
a portion of a site leaving the rest for future researchers who will have
better tools and methods.
are two main reasons why archaeologists look for and sometimes excavate
They may have a research question about the past that makes it necessary
to search a certain area for sites, or to excavate a site.
2. Sites may be
endangered by a development project or natural causes, such as erosion,
that requires data to be salvaged before the site is destroyed.
One of the best places
for an archaeologist to learn about a past civilization is a "midden."
A midden is the term archaeologists use for a garbage dump from the past!
Yep, the garbage site! Why garbage, you ask? Well, garbage can tell us
a lot about how people lived. Think about your garbage can. What would
it tell people about your life? Just think, you may be the archaeologist's
dream come true in a few thousand years!
Why do archaeologists
dig stuff up? Can't they just look in a book?
We rely on archaeologists to tell us about things that aren't written
down in books. The written word is only about 5,000 years old, and in
the grand scheme of things that isn't very long! Also, there are a lot
of things that are left out of books. Many times, books will be about
famous people but we don't often hear about how the average person lived.
And, sometimes what people say and what they do are two totally different
things. Archaeologists can help do the detective work by pulling all of
the information together and give us a portrayal of the past.
Archaeology on the Web through our
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