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A glimpse at ARCHAEOLOGY

Archaeology is the scientific study of historic and prehistoric peoples and their cultures by looking at artifacts from the ground, inscriptions found in old stone and wood, monuments, and other remains. Archaeologists (an archaeologist is a person who studies these things--just like you) spend most of their time digging up the garbage that the peoples of the past have left behind.

The role of archaeology in uncovering historic clues is that it helps provide dates for when things happened, and uncovers lots of neat objects from the ground. You must be careful, however, because relying on only one form of history can be dangerous, as you already know, and archaeologists have to make generalizations about cultures and broad time periods without as much information on the individual person living during that time. Also, when using written things left behind we don’t get a good point of view of what life was like for the commoners since the commoners usually could not read or write. Unlike oral history, which has the ability to focus on each individual person and event, archaeology is more broad and generalized. When you combine the two types of historical exploration you come up with a lot of accurate facts that match up nicely with the flavorful oral histories!

So, why is it that archaeologists are digging up trash? That doesn’t sound very exciting. Well, when people find a nice place to settle down they spend a lot of time building up their village, which grows and grows. Throughout history, wars, floods, and other disasters periodically come and wipe out those areas causing mass destruction and sometimes forcing the people to flee! Eventually, either the old village is rebuilt or a new group of people comes along and builds right on top of the old village burying what is left behind many layers below the ground. The things archaeologists find are the left over “trash” from the civilizations who were forced to move to a new location, or the left over pieces of destruction from a major event.

There is one more major way that the Scottsville Museum pieces together the stories for their exhibits and that job lies in the hands of the museum curator!


How do we know?   Oral History   Archaeology   Archives/Accessions   Teacher/Parent