Archaeology is the study of human behavior as evidenced by physical remains, be they cities, arrowheads, tombs, writings, tools, ceramics, trash or any number of things not mentioned here. The important thing is that the researcher does not lose focus on the real goal of the discipline--understanding people.

To this effect, in recent years modern material culture studies such as the now infamous Garbage Project have, using archaeological methodology gained insight into the peoples of today.

Though there are many factional divisions with archaeology, the two main groups are the Americanist and European archaeologists. Much of the difference is seen today in the application of stratigraphic methodology, in particular the Harris Matrix which is used much more frequently among those of the European school.

The differences stem, though, from the density and types of sites traditionally found in the two regions. Whereas in the Old World sedentary culture had long been established creating large and deep sites where a technological checklist could seperate sites into distinct ages (e.g. Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age), the vast majority of New World sites did not have the extreme duration of occupation seen across the seas. As such, for a long time it was even held that the Americas had only a shallow history of human occupation, a view held by the Bureau of American Ethnography. It was not until the early 1900s discovery of a Clovis point in the ribs of a long extinct species of bison that American deep time was widely accepted. Nonetheless, the differences in sites between the Americas and the Old World caused archaeologists to develop different theoretical and methodological tool sets to suit their needs. Not unexpectedly, the creators of these tool sets became entrenched in their respective region's educational system and the two schools are still widely extant.

Regardless, most modern archaeologists have a much more holistic approach to field and lab work than their graverobbing, tomb raiding, treasure hoarding predecessors. Modern archaeology attempts to combine sound excavation techniques, most often stratigraphic, with up-to-date analysis of archaeobotany, archaeoecology, epidemiology, geology and pretty much anything that can be deemed relevant to a site. Archaeology is still evolving as new methods are developed and new thinkers come to the fore.

Some archaeology related quotes:

"In the past, people did not have Fritos. In the absence of Fritos, you need rockchucks."
--Joel Janetski

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phrase is characterized by the question 'How can we eat?' the second by the question 'Why do we eat?' and the third by the question 'Where shall we have lunch?'"
--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"The greatest contribution archaeology has ever provided to society is the simple fact that everybody is destined to become a feature."

"It takes very special qualities to devote one's life to life to problems with no attainable solutions and to poking around in dead's people's garbage: Words like 'masochistic,' 'nosy,' and 'completely batty' spring to mind."
--Paul Bahn, Bluff Your Way in Archaeology

"When I hear anyone talk of culture, I reach for my revolver."
--Hermann Goering

"Nothing changes more constantly than the past; for the past that influences our lives does not consist of what actually happened, but of what men believe happened."
--Gerald White Johnson, American Heroes and Hero-Worships

"Whoso diggeth the pit shall fall therein"
--Solomon, Prophets 26:27

"...In only seven years, Unit 18 recovered 8 percent of its cultural material contents, and Level 1 comprising the upper 10 cm recovered 41 percent. At this rate, including transportation of materials both in and out of Unit 18, the unit could be completely restocked with equivalent cultural materials in 88 years after the first excavation"
--Barbara Bocek, discussing the effects of bioturbation on a previously excavated unit backfilled with clean sediment, upon re-excavation, American Antiquity

"One coffin split while being moved. We did not open it but the liquid that ran out was far and enough to convince me that there had been total decomposition of non-skeletal material. This was one of the most digusting experiences of my career as an archaeologist."
--William Moss

"Archaeologists have the most mind numbing job on the planet"
--Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes

"Those were the great days of excavating... anything to which a fancy was taken, from a scarab to an obelisk, was just appropriated, and if there was a difference with a brother excavator, one laid for him with a gun."
--Howard Carter, 1923

"{Archaeology is} the discipline with the theory and practice for the recovery of unobservable hominid behavior patterns from indirect traces in bad samples."
--David Clark

"I notice that archaeologists who come up with neat models for prehistoric cultural events seem to feel that they are presenting us with some sort of reality. It is lucky for these scholars that the long-dead subjects of their study cannot now contradict them."
--Michael Coe

"Future archaeologists will perhaps excavate the ruined factories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when the radiation effects of atom bombs have died away."
--O.G.S. Crawford, Archaeology in the Field

"Civilizations exist by geological consent, subject to change without notice."
--Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

"Culture is one thing and varnish is another."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"In a manner of speaking, the fact that humankind itself is unpredictable is the quintessential stumbling-block for archaeologists. We have to assume that the people whose dwelling places, artefacts, lives even, we are dealing with were rational, integrated, sane and sensible human beings. Then we look around at our own contemporaries and wonder how this belief can possibly be sustained."
--Laurance Flanagan, Ancient Ireland: Life Before the Celts

"Archaeology is the only branch of anthropology where we kill our informants in the process of studying them."
--Kent V. Flannery

"Archaeology is the search for fact. Not Truth. If it's Truth you're interested in, Dr. Tyree's Philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you've got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure and 'X' never, ever, marks the spot."
--Indiana Jones

"American archaeology is ready to be a mature science, one that accepts the primacy of its empirical data--for these can outlast theories--and the political and human ramifications of its actions, as it reflectively constructs and compares interpretations. Tolerance for ambiguity is as essential as the Marshalltown trowel."
--Alice Beck Kehoe, The Land of Prehistory: A critical history of American archaeology

"No project was ever completed on time and within budget."
--Khufu's Law

"Ah ha! The Rebel Base!"
--George Lucas, upon seeing the Mayan ruins at Tikal

"I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes."
--Carl Sandburg

"I became an archaeologist because I wanted to drive around in a big Landrover; smoking, cursing and finding treasure."
--Carmel Schrire, Digging Through Darkness

If you know any good archaeology-related quotes /msg me at TheMarmot and I'll be more than happy to add them.

Some quotes found at:

Legal Framework for archaeological undertakings in Egypt

One common misunderstanding through the history of exploration in Egypt has been the laws governing excavation, antiquities and cultural heritage management. The laws were never monolithic, and changed frequently. When Zahi Hawass was appointed to the position of Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), he worked with the General Director of Foreign and Egyptian Mission Affairs, Magdy El-Ghandour, to put the laws on paper. A response to past problems with looting, and losses like that of the Rosetta stone, were a driving force in solidifying the laws. Before he did this, the laws were more like an oral tradition than a set of actual guidelines that could be found in a book somewhere.

The SCA has put in place a stringent set of guidelines for foreigners planning any work in Egypt. These include:

  • The application process,
  • Requirements for applications concerning the West and East coast of Desert areas,
  • Security regulations,
  • Rules for missions while on site,
  • Responsibility after approval of application, and
  • The relationship between the SCA inspector and the mission.

Also included in these guidelines are new policies, which will govern concessions for the next 10 years. Included in these are:

A separate department has been formed to deal directly with foreign mission directors. This department is titled The Department of Foreign Archaeological Missions.

Those wishing to undertake projects in Egypt must first be aware of the restricted areas. These are listed as:

Once the restrictions have been taken into consideration, there is a lengthy and detailed application process, much like the process for a state and federal undertaking in the US. The application must be written in English and must include the nationalities and positions for the entire expedition team. Curriculum Vitae for every member must be provided, along with proof of professional affiliation. Permission will not be granted to members who are not professionals in the field. No graduate students will be granted a concession, however they may obtain permission for study or research on archaeological sites with the approval of the supervisor. The application will state the time frame of the excavation season, the source of funding and should have attached a map showing the requested site location. The security clearance of all members, signed SCA contract and accepted application is required before the team may begin their work. In the event the mission director is absent, an assistant director should be specified.

After approval of the application, the Department of Foreign Archaeological Missions will notify the mission director and the SCA. Inspectors are assigned to accompany the mission, and the mission director must submit two (2) reports confirming the excavation boundaries. The inspector and the director must sign these reports. It is the duty of the mission inspector to send a monthly report on the excavation. It is the mission directors’ responsibility to inform the SCA of new discoveries.

Transportation and storage units for artifacts are the responsibility of the mission. Also, the security guards working on the site should be paid by the mission, and approved by the SCA site director. Recognized experts in conservation and preservation must be employed, and restoration and site management programs should be stated in a detailed report to be submitted to the permanent committee. During epigraphical work, necessary precautions should be taken to ensure protection of monuments. A copy of all epigraphical work should be submitted to the SCA. Five (5) copies of the preliminary report must be submitted immediately after the end of the season. These reports must be submitted prior to the departure of the mission, and must be written in English. Within three months of the season’s completion, a detailed report in French, German or English, and translated into Arabic, must be sent to The Department of Foreign Archaeological Missions. These reports must include copies of photographs, charts and plans from the excavation. The SCA requests the donation of five (5) copies of recently published works regarding the site, which may be distributed to their libraries and museums. Any expedition that fails to conserve the findings of the previous season will not be allowed to return to their concession until the conservation is complete.

The relationship between the Inspector and the mission is outlined in the new laws, which states:

  • The SCA will rotate the accompanying Inspectors every season; no mission has the right to request and inspector for consecutive seasons;
  • The mission is required to pay the SCA either:
    • 1500 LE/Month for the overtime and transportation of inspectors who do not live with the expedition
    • 1000 LE/Month for inspectors who do live with the expedition;
  • The inspectors are prohibited from accepting any cash rewards or getting involved in any money transactions separate from those stated above;
  • Any problems concerning the behavior of the accompanying inspector should be reported to the Secretary General of the SCA

The fourth and fifth section of the New Policies outlined in the new laws states very clearly the Egyptian policy on stolen artefacts. According to these sections, no member of a mission is to be involved with dealers of such artifacts, and is expected to turn over any information regarding stolen artifacts to the Department of Stolen Artifacts. Team members who are found in possession of such artifacts will be promptly removed from the excavation, and missions will be terminated as a result of the directors’ involvement.

Ar`chae*ol"o*gy (#), n. [Gr. ; ancient (fr. beginning) + discourse, to speak.]

The science or study of antiquities, esp. prehistoric antiquities, such as the remains of buildings or monuments of an early epoch, inscriptions, implements, and other relics, written manuscripts, etc.


© Webster 1913.

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