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Either large or small, they are the evidence of past cultures. These artifacts are proof of those before us and serve as a physical connection to our past. Archaeology is divided into prehistoric and historical archaeology. Prehistoric archaeology is the study of cultures that did not have a written language. Although prehistoric peoples did not write about their culture, they left remains such as tools, pottery, ceremonial objects, and dietary refuse.

Historical archaeology studies the remains of cultures for which a written history exists. Historical archaeology examines records from the past that include diaries; court, census, and tax records; deeds; maps; and photographs. Through combining the use of documentation and archaeological evidence, archaeologists gain a better understanding of the past and human behavior. The goal of archaeology is to understand how and why human behavior has changed over time.

Archaeologists search for patterns in the evolution of significant cultural events such as the development of farming, the emergence of cities, or the collapse of major civilizations for clues of why these events occurred. Ultimately, they are searching for ways to better predict how cultures will change, including our own, and how to better plan for the future. Archaeology is not only the study of these broad issues but also provides a history and heritage to many cultures.


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Nothing would be known of the cultural developments of prehistoric peoples if it were not for archaeology. Additionally, archaeology paints a picture of everyday life for groups such as slaves, coal miners, and other early immigrant workers who were poorly documented by historians. Today, our culture seems to document everything through books, newspapers, television, and the Internet. However, there is frequently a difference between what is written and what people actually do. Modern media often puts a "spin" on a story that reflects an editorial bias on what has taken place.

Although the written record may be tremendously useful, it is biased by the beliefs and mistakes of those who produced them. Archaeology frequently provides a more objective account of our past than the historic record alone. Our past is our cultural heritage, and how we choose to use this information for future generations is an important role for archaeologists.

Understanding patterns and changes in human behavior enhances our knowledge of the past. It aids us in planning, not only our future, but for generations to come. Many people believe that public archaeology is critical to understanding, protecting, and celebrating our rich and diverse cultural heritage. Archaeologists recognize the importance of this role and are developing various mechanisms of media outreach, publications, Internet, and public programs, to publicize the contributions of archaeology.

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Archaeological sites are evidence of human activity often associated with concentrations of artifacts. Excavation of archaeological sites is a destructive process requiring systematic removal of soils and artifacts. Archaeological sites are similar to research laboratories where data is collected, recorded, and analyzed. Controlled excavation and mapping of information relative to the soil layers and the artifacts associated with each layer allows archaeologists to search for patterns in past human behavior. They study these patterns and changes in human behavior over long periods of time, as evidenced in the artifacts.

The combination of analysis of activities only present in the soil, such as the stains left by cooking, and the artifacts recovered, survive as the archaeological record of a site. Archaeological sites and artifacts on private land in the Commonwealth are the property of the landowner. The intentional excavation or removal of antiquities on public land is a criminal offense forbidden by law.

Sarah Milledge Nelson. Archaeology Matters. Jeremy A Sabloff. Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice. Matt Edgeworth.

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A Companion to World History. Douglas Northrop. Sea Changes. Bernhard Klein. Understanding Collapse. Guy D.

Places in Mind. Paul A. Studies in Culture Contact. James G. The Archaeology of Slavery. Lydia Wilson Marshall. Appropriated Pasts. Ian J. Worlds of Gender. Theory in Archaeology. Peter J. Reinterpreting Exploration. Dane Kennedy. The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies. Michael E. Collaboration in Archaeological Practice.

Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh. A Practice of Anthropology. Alex Golub. Carl Sauer on Culture and Landscape. William M. The Routledge History of Western Empires. Robert Aldrich. The Dead and their Possessions. Cressida Fforde. Globalizations and the Ancient World. Justin Jennings. Archaeologies of Complexity. Robert Chapman.

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Department of Archaeology

Archaeology of Identity. Margarita Diaz-Andreu. Tracing Ochre. Fiona Polack. Ethnographies of Conservation. David G. Globalization and Global History. Barry K. A Companion to Gender Prehistory. Diane Bolger. Reclaiming Archaeology. Anthropology and Archaeology. Chris Gosden. The New World History. Ross E. Patrick H.

Race and Practice in Archaeological Interpretation. The Archaeology of Capitalism in Colonial Contexts. Sarah K. Conflict in the Archaeology of Living Traditions. Consuming the Caribbean. Mimi Sheller. Social Archaeologies of Trade and Exchange. Alexander A Bauer.


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International Handbook of Historical Archaeology. Teresita Majewski. Envisioning Landscape. Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism. Jocelyn E.

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Socialising Complexity. Sheila Kohring. A Future for Archaeology. Handbook of Postcolonial Archaeology. Jane Lydon. Boundaries, Borders and Frontiers in Archaeology. Bryan Feuer. Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology. Orser Jnr. The Excluded Past. Robert MacKenzie. Margaret Bruchac. Ungendering Civilization. Anne Pyburn. An Archaeology of Land Ownership. Maria Relaki. Expeditionary Anthropology. Martin Thomas. Saul Dubow. Archaeology and Capitalism.

Yannis Hamilakis. Barbara J Little. Spaces of Global Knowledge. Diarmid A. Cosmopolitan Archaeologies. Lynn Meskell. The Politics of the Past. Foreign Objects. Craig N. Archaeologies of Sexuality. Robert A.

Archeology - exploring the past with modern technology - DW History Documentary

The Land of Prehistory.