Portal:Archaeology

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Archaeology portal

The 3,000-year-old remains of Ancient Rome in Italy are being excavated and mapped by these archaeologists.

Archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In North America, archaeology is considered a sub-field of anthropology, while in Europe archaeology is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines.

Archaeologists study human prehistory and history, from the development of the first stone tools at Lomekwi in East Africa 3.3 million years ago up until recent decades. Archaeology as a field is distinct from the discipline of palaeontology, the study of fossil remains. Archaeology is particularly important for learning about prehistoric societies, for whom there may be no written records to study. Prehistory includes over 99% of the human past, from the Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in societies across the world. Archaeology has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time.

The discipline involves surveying, excavation and eventually analysis of data collected to learn more about the past. In broad scope, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research. It draws upon anthropology, history, art history, classics, ethnology, geography, geology, literary history, linguistics, semiology, textual criticism, physics, information sciences, chemistry, statistics, paleoecology, paleography, paleontology, paleozoology, and paleobotany.

Archaeology developed out of antiquarianism in Europe during the 19th century, and has since become a discipline practiced across the world. Archaeology has been used by nation-states to create particular visions of the past. Since its early development, various specific sub-disciplines of archaeology have developed, including maritime archaeology, feminist archaeology and archaeoastronomy, and numerous different scientific techniques have been developed to aid archaeological investigation. Nonetheless, today, archaeologists face many problems, such as dealing with pseudoarchaeology, the looting of artifacts, a lack of public interest, and opposition to the excavation of human remains.

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Image:PeruCaral01.jpg
The Norte Chico civilization was a complex Pre-Columbian society that included as many as 30 major population centers in what is now the Norte Chico region of north-central coastal Peru. It is the oldest known civilization in the Americas, having flourished between the 30th century BC and the 18th century BC. The alternative name, Caral-Supe, is derived from Caral in the Supe Valley, a large and well-studied Norte Chico site. Complex society in Norte Chico emerged just a millennium after Sumer, was contemporaneous with the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, and predated the Mesoamerican Olmec by nearly two millennia. In archaeological nomenclature, Norte Chico is a Preceramic culture of the pre-Columbian Late Archaic; it completely lacked ceramics and was largely without art. The most impressive achievement of the civilization was its monumental architecture, including large platform mounds and sunken circular plazas. Archaeological evidence suggests use of textile technology and, possibly, the worship of common god symbols, both of which recur in pre-Columbian Andean cultures. Sophisticated government is assumed to have been required to manage the ancient Norte Chico, and questions remain over its organization, particularly the impact of food resources on politics. Archaeologists have been aware of ancient sites in the area since at least the 1940s; early work occurred at Aspero on the coast, a site identified as early as 1905, and later at Caral further inland. Peruvian archaeologists, led by Ruth Shady Solís, provided the first extensive documentation of the civilization in the late 1990s, with work at Caral.


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The Great Bath
Credit: Diliff

The Great Bath of the Roman Baths in Bath, England, with Bath Abbey in the background. The complex, a grade I listed building, was constructed during Roman Britain, during which time the town was known as Aquae Sulis. It was rediscovered in the 18th century and, as well as being a major archaeological find, it has become one of the city's main attractions. The entire structure above the level of the pillar bases is a later reconstruction.

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