Archaeology is many things. It is done for many reasons, and after many goals.
Archaeology historically has been important for the preservation of culture. “Culture” is a very broad word. Archaeology concerns itself with preserving the materials that reflect our cultural heritage. This is important because the materials that reflect our culture are widespread and fragile. What’s more is that the materials we leave behind and our ancestors leave behind tell a story that cannot be found in records. Archaeologists are able to take the materials we left behind, preserve them, and interpret them for humanity to see. Archaeologists know how to make a “quilt” of our past from the various swatches found here and there. This perhaps is and has been the most valuable aspect of archaeology, its ability to make a “map” of human past in a way no other field can for all to enjoy.
In modern times, archaeology has become even more than cultural preservation. Now archaeologists concern themselves with making theories about human cultural development in the past. Now archaeologists theorize how human culture changes and evolves from the perspective of materials. A lot can be found about people by studying what they leave behind. Archaeology has become a compliment to other anthropological fields, offering these studies information no available from other sources.
Perhaps the most important part of archaeology is the fact that it shows just how amazing humanity is. Archaeology dispels any notion of “dumb ancients” that is held. Archaeology has shown us evidence of great civilizations and complex technology in past cultures. Humanity has throughout history adapted to their environment in vast displays of ingenuity. They have constructed pyramids, made massive mounds of Earth, developed sophisticated weaponry, all without the help of the technology we have today. Many of the most advanced people today cannot achieve what our ancestors have. Archaeology truly demonstrates the power of the human mind.
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