I've seen this definition in a couple of textbooks,but I've never quite agreed with it because I just don't believe it's possible to fully reconstruct the past(any past)completely...even if we had been there. To 'reconstruct' also seems too final to me.There is no one true past.I guess that's why I prefer the term 'study of the past'.
Ultimately,it boils down to a matter of perspective,and that's partially why I love this field so much.Even though it's considered a 'science',there's still something intangible about it.
Studying the past is the job of a historian - an archaeologist is only part historian. A large part, yes, but still only part; we have a quite different job. 'Reconstruct' might seem to be a blanket definition, but it's accurate. We answer questions, fill in blanks. Historians know that during the Amarna period in Egypt the Aten was worshipped, but thanks to archaeologists we know that the temples in Akhenaten's failed city had large open courtyards as opposed to the dark inner sanctums of the Amun temples. So we know how they worshipped the Aten. Texts and reliefs, stela, etc. tell us more about the period, and we piece it together. And since later kings tried to erase Akhenaten from history (a common practice…Hatshepsut is another example), archaeologists were able to help RECONSTRUCT the era.
Yes, it’s impossible to fully reconstruct the past since we weren’t there and we don’t have as much evidence as we’d like, but more could be waiting to be found. So just because we can’t fill in all the blanks all the time doesn’t mean reconstruct isn’t an accurate depiction of what we do. We do far more than study the past…we draw conclusions and answer questions, make connections, discover parallels between society…WHY a certain city at a certain time had a strategic advantage over others, HOW the workers who cut the tombs in the KV actually lived… etc. That’s far more than study. That is, in essence, building an answer from the ground up, by finding hard evidence. That’s reconstructing.
You can argue that a historian does the same thing but we uncover the hard evidence and have the first crack at the theory of a particular question. So what if we can’t provide the full answer or build the complete picture of past life all the time? We still make an effort and make due with what we have. Which is why “reconstructing the past” has become such a widely accepted definition. No, it’s not complete, but it’s a good, short summation of what we do
It's usually all right to simplify the definitions a little. This thread has proved us that an archaeologist does a lot of things a common man may not even know of, and vice versa too, doesn't do something commonfolk thinks they do.
It appears that there are as much ways to work out archaeology as there are archaeologists. Perhaps we blend the other specialties to archaeology because most of the renowned archaeologists in this world have become renowned because their knowledge is wide and varied and goes far outside those core bounds every archaeologist has to know.
It's true, that an archaeologist may do a lot of theory brainwork concerning the finds all by oneself, but it's very common that there will be consultation from e.g. historians as well who know their stuff better than the digging one.
that's why the Archaelogy board is good. Depending on what sort of a conversation I feel like taking part of, I pick what board I want to post on.
By the way, Fall semester this year I'm taking an archaelogy related seminar (which is like half a class).
Its called Ancient Engineering
In this hands-on seminar we'll see how materials archeologists and engineers at MIT study ancient, and not so ancient, technologies. By “reverse engineering”, we’ll try to understand decisions about materials processing, design, and the social context in which these technologies developed. Our examples will include Maya rubber processing (2500BC) (the Mayans used morning glory vine juice); Mesopotamian (Near Eastern) portable stone-metal casting molds (2900BCE); Inca suspension bridges; ancient Mexican metallurgy and its introduction via maritime trade; and similar topics. Some regular readings will help to augment our discussions and lab work.
There's a possibility I may also be taking a regular intro to archaelogy course.
I hope the Ancient Engineering course will give me some insight for the Indy 4 script I'm writing. I'm having a hard time giving away my story, I think it does a good job of bringing Indy into the post-war era.
Originally posted by intergamer I hope the Ancient Engineering course will give me some insight for the Indy 4 script I'm writing. I'm having a hard time giving away my story, I think it does a good job of bringing Indy into the post-war era.
I am available by PM if you need screenwriting advise. It is wise to be picky, though.