What is archaeology?

Links to sites which explain something of the nature of Archaeology and its development over the past 200 years.

The History of Archaeology
A commentary by Kris Hirst on the development of archaeology from the earliest treasure hunters to the development of scientific technique.

The Idea of the Past
Chapter 1 of Kevin Greene and Tom Moore's Archaeology: an introduction. "How the concerns of modern archaeologists developed in the past - human origins; the recognition of human tools; the recording of ancient sites; the investigation of early civilizations."

Archaeology in the Enlightenment
The British Museum has reconstructed a gallery in the Kings Library as a facsimile of the kinds of displays in museums of the eighteenth century - you can explore some of the exhibits via their website and follow a tour through some of the history of archaeology. Hugh Pearman has produced an interesting article on the gallery itself: "Enlightenment dawns: the British Museum opens a museum of itself" which includes some images of the gallery, rather than just the objects.

John Aubrey (1626-97)
An English antiquary, credited with recognising the significance of Avebury, and author of Monumenta Britannica. Information about Aubrey and his work at Avebury is provided by this highly detailed Avebury website which covers the range of investigations that have taken place there over many years. Information about William Stukeley (1687-1765) who followed in Aubrey's footsteps is also included.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-90)
A biographical sketch of the German archaeologist known for his excavations at ancient Troy and Mycenae. The Schliemann Museum not surprisingly has more information - a translated version of sorts can be viewed through Google

Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941)
The British archaeologist, excavator of Mycenae and the Minoan palace of Knossos. Pictures and information about Knossos are available from the same site.

A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom
by Andrew Dickson White (published in 1894). Specific relevant extracts from this (very) large text include:

  • The Sacred Chronology -- an account of Biblical chronology
  • The New Chronology -- questioning the Biblical chronology
  • The Antiquity of Man and Prehistoric Archaeology -- the work of Boucher de Perthes, Lyell and others

An alternative link to the book is here.

Harris Poll on Public Perceptions of Archaeology
A poll conducted for the Society of American Archaeology in 2000 finds, amongst other things, that most Americans support the goals and practice of archaeology, endorse laws protecting archaeological sites and artifacts, and think archaeology is important to today's society ...