Archeology Goals


     Although there is little existing evidence of how life once was for ancient
people much information can be gathered to create a full picture of what it was
once like. To discover how it used to be there are three basic goals set by
archeologists and other scientists. These goals consist of chronology,
reconstruction and explanation. They are set to shed light on cultures and lives
that were forgotten so long ago and link them to our own modern lives.

Chronology is the records that archeologists and historians keep and use to gain
a better perspective of time and to which era where each culture is placed.

Excavations are an important aspect of chronology they are the basis for
everything found. Excavations reveal the order that and remnants were left in
relation to other artifact layers. This aids in determining the approximate age
of each component of the layers contents. However there are other ways to make
sure these dates are even more accurate and precise. As possible data and other
artifacts are found at excavation sites they are sent for laboratory analysis,
where such methods as carbon dating take place. Chronological data is important
as it provides information on such things as the spread of technology from one
tribe or region to another and how long and what patterns it took to get there.

Through careful excavating and attention to detail scientists are able to find
and fit together what some might say are meaningless shards with no value and
discover that it is the missing piece that shows the spread of one culture to
another. An example of spread of technology and its evolution might be a
cylinder seals commonly found in the near east. These cylinder seals were first
produced around the year 3500 B.C. in Sumaria. These early seals were simple in
the beginning. They were rather large tubes with decorative engravings ranging
in size from four cm to six cm in length. Many cylinder seals have been found
throughout other near eastern excavations where they have been documented and
tracked. As time went on they became smaller (around two cm.) and much more
detailed. By these later time periods people began experimenting with many
different kinds of materials such as stone, shell, bone and also ivory. This
illustrates the progression of cylinder seals and how they were changed over a
period of time. Reconstruction is based on information gathered from chronology
and the physical evidence found at excavation sites. Archeologists and
historians take this information to recreate the way things could have been in
past cultures. Reconstructions are also subject to change as more data is found
and studied it may be added, altering the way scientist originally thought it
things may have been. Reconstruction is all subject to interpretation of
documented material remains and also environmental remnants in their
chronological contexts. Environmental remains may be such things as animal body
part or plant remains. In the 1960's Richard MacNeish headed a group of
archeologists and scientists from other fields reconstructed the way people of

Mexico's Tehuacan Valley obtained and produced food. In the 1980's researchers
refined this reconstruction. They analyzed the composition of materials from the
original study and newly found environmental samples. The results of the
analyses revealed a shift in subsistence patterns over a 9000- year period.

Showing inhabitants of the valley shifted from seasonal migration surviving on a
diet of plants and some game to a more stable community based on agriculture.

Archaeologists often use what is called a theoretical model and observations of
the world as it exists today truing to explain the happenings of the past.

Through these models and observations inferred explanations are created.

Explanations usually include environmental factors like, population changes, and
also patterns of thought and behavior. The difference between reconstructions
and explanations are that reconstructions are based on physical remains to
create the past, whereas explanations are only attempts to answer questions
about the past that cannot be gathered from physical proof. Like the example of
the Tehuacan Valley these changes that took place among the settlement cannot be
explained, but there are those who attempt to clarify the possible factors that
fit into place with the already existing physical evidence. By trying to explain
the mysteries of the past they have unlocked and gained insights in our own
lives. Helping us realize that we are not so different from our ancient
ancestors. Like in the times of the Egyptians and the people of Ur. Monumental
structures reaching for the heavens were created for religious purposes. This
tradition has carried on for thousands of years until present time with our own
modern buildings and skyscrapers. Also we are similar in our love for decoration
and adornment. Ancient vases were decorated and adorned to appeal to human
senses. Just as today in our own society almost all things are used to appeal to
the human senses. It is important to learn about the past and all that can be
derived from the small bits and pieces left behind. It should always be
remembered that no matter how small the fragment much can be learned from it and
applied to these three main goals. Each miserable scrap could become the most
important missing link to the puzzle left to us to piece together. Through the
use of these three main goals, chronology, reconstruction and explanation we are
better able to understand ancient civilizations and in exchange better
understand our own lives in the process.