Featured post


UPDATE: As of 11 pm Sunday evening, I updated the instructions for embedding videos below.


This week, we will be discussing historical archaeology and public archaeology…you’ll also get to here two lectures by yours truly! Some important reminders, dates, and your questions after the video.

[screencast url=”http://www.screencast.com/t/NUm5SWAput” width=”600″ height=”400″]


  1. Discuss some of the ethical issues surrounding archaeology.
  2. What is historical archaeology? What makes it unique in comparison to other subgroups of archaeology?

Last Week Schedule

Monday at 5 pm: You Pick It Assignment due – Sooner the better, however.

Wednesday at 5 pm: Blog post response due

Friday at 5 pm: Blog post comment due

Wednesday at 5 pm: Final Week Quiz posted in ANGEL, open until Saturday at 11:55 pm.

Thursday at 7 am: Final exam posted in ANGEL, Due by Saturday at 11:55. You will 1.5 hours to complete the exam, it will be a combination of 50 multiple choice, matching, and true/false questions with one short answer essay. It is worth 25% of your total grade.

Embedding a video or slideshare into your blog post

Some of you are interested in doing a video or slide presentation for your You Pick It assignment. Fortunately, there are a series of very simple “short codes” that you can use to embed videos directly into a blog post. To get to these instructions, you must do the following:

  1. Click on the link to the service below: archivesaudioblip.tvdailymotiondiggflickrgooglevideo,
  2. scribdslideslidesharesoundcloudvimeoyoutube, and polldaddy.
  3. Follow the instructions at that link.

At some point, you will have to type some information in your blog post surrounded by these brackets: [ ] This should translate into a video when you publish or preview the post. If you can’t get this to work, don’t fret, and just include a link to what it is you’d like to include.

Thanks so much for a great semester!

Historical Archaeology

Historical archaeology is the study of people and societies that exsisted in the past, mainly the 15th century and on, but any time period with a written record. This is almost the same as classical archaeology except for the time period that is being focused on. One thing to remember about historical archaeology is the fact that the written record almost always bais and incomplete. Because of this archaeologists use the written record and pair it with the artifacts and buildings that they find, to try and determine what actually happened.

One of the unique characteristics of historical archaeology is the fact that so much is written and kept in record. Because of this it is possible for us to learn  more about a societies politics, customs, and genders of the time. We can get an understanding of how they think like whether they were interested in expanding their society, if they were war driven or if they were more interested in being diplomatic. Also it helps us to understand the peoples of the time in religion and what was important to them. It can put meaning to some of the srtifacts that are found, especially the ones that we are unsure of what was being depicted. This helps to give a much greater understanding of how they operated in that time and we can piece together the daily lives of the people, not just the greater accomplishments of their time. We can also study the industrialization of the society that we are studying is historical archaeology.

Historical Archaeology and the Written Record

After hearing the word “Historical Archaeology” in week one, I automatically assumed it was archaeology relating to the history of humans, little did I know it was much more in depth than that. There are many reasons why historical archaeology is a unique, yet important branch of archaeology. One primary reason why historical archaeology is unique is because, it has the written record. A written record is essentially a document which preserved knowledge and facts; however these facts may be biased and selective. This is due to the fact that only a small portion of the population had the education, knowledge, and opportunity to be literate and write. In addition, that small portion or the writer themselves may be biased because of their own belief, their conception of others, etc. Research in this branch of archaeology includes testing the historical record by comparing it to archaeological evidence to either support or disprove the bias. Another reason why historical archaeology is a significant branch is because the information that researchers study are in a close time frame from us, approximating only up to five hundred years back. This gives researchers and individuals a more emotional attachment to their research because they can look at the agency, identity, and social relationships of the previous generations and relate/compare that to persons and cultures in the present. Since the information is in such a close period, more people can contribute to research. For example many Native American tribes are very knowledgeable about the history of their tribes, culture, and practices. The stories that are passed on through generations exist today and allow the remaining natives to share these stories from a first person perspective.


Historical Archaeology

There are many different types of archaeology. A few that we’ve discussed in Anthropology 203 are prehistoric archaeology, historical archaeology, and classical archaeology. Prehistorical archaeology is the study of materials from the past before there was a written record. Classical archaeology is the study of the Greek and Roman civilizations (sometimes referred to as the most civilized cultures.) Historical archaeology is the study of past material remains from more recent times when there is a written record. Historical archaeology is studied underwater and on land. Most commonly, European settlements and their interactions with the Native Americans are studied. Also, industrialization and urbanization are examined in the field of historical archaeology. The time period studied in this field is considered our own past because it is relatively recent history (1400’s – present.)

Compared to other fields of archaeology, historical archaeology is unique because the materials studied are from a current time period when there is a written record. The written record aids in the study of material remains because it provides links to religion, politics, race, etc. There is not as much speculation in historical archaeology as there is in other sub fields. It may seem redundant that materials from historical times are studied because there is already a written record. The material remains help to remove biases of the person that wrote a document in the past. They may have a one-sided point of view about a particular event, so excavating materials is necessary when studying the recent past. The written record makes dating artifacts more accurate and effective, so having both types of historical evidence is very beneficial.

Historical Archaeology

Historical Archaeology is the study of people who have lived in a time period of a written record. More specifically, it deals with the time period of European Colonization, beginning in the 15th century. This can keep it separated from Classical Archaeology, which also deals with the periods of the written record, but focuses on the Mediterranean, and specifically Ancient Greek and Rome, that goes until the 15th century. The time period for European Colonization is fascinating because we have:

1) A very detailed written record that exists for many countries including (Portugal, France, Spain, England, and the Netherlands). This written record is broken into business financial documents, religious records, political records, military records, communal records, family records, and personal letters. However, even though it is highly detailed there are still many holes to fill; and it is extremely biased to the selective and rich. History was written by the winners after all.

2) Sites are numerous, new, and well preserved. Because of the European Global Colonization, Historic sites can be found almost anywhere. With only 600 years or less of time between sites, sites are fresh with little disturbance. In fact, because of the European model of building cities upward, many older civilization sites are just under a major city, there to be discovered in the future. In a National Geographic they showed what the city of Paris had under it:  old railway, subway, and trolley tunnels, mining tunnels that are collapsing, mortuary caverns, temples, etc.

3) We are a wasteful society. What is horrible for sustainability and the global environment is actually fortuitous for archaeologists. There are so many artifacts that were discarded as we moved into and through the industrial age, that the sheer amount of waste gives researchers a huge edge on connecting past lifeways (just in the Archaeology dig at Fort Michilimackinac there were over 1 million artifacts collected so far).

Historical Archeology- week 7

Historical archeology is generally defined as “the study of people who have, or lived in a time period with, a written record”. Historical Archeology includes two out of the three subgroups of archeology; it includes classical and historical but excludes prehistoric archeology. This type of archeology tends to focus on the study of European colonization, starting in the 15th century. The written record is not always correct or accurate due to the bias and selectiveness of those who wrote it.   It does not always give a complete picture of the time. Historical archeology can help in discovering information which can start to develop a whole picture. One can develop a timeline which can be compared to the timeline shown through the written record which can validate, refute, or cause debate over what the written record states. This type of archeology can also be used to give a voice to those who were unable to write their history. In addition, historical archeology studies things that can be relevant to contemporary issues. This can bring insight into our own society and how we think and live. Historical archeology is unique because all of the written information can give more information about politics, race, gender, and religion which adds an extra layer of to the archeology analysis. Also, the documents allow for the examination of shorter and more accurate time periods which helps in dating artifacts as well. In addition, the periods which are studied are many times close to us time wise and in an emotional matter. This can also mean that what is discovered can be emotionally important to living people but it can also be purposefully altered by important figures, like governments, for various reasons.


Ethics and Historical Archaeology

In the article “ethics and archaeology: Can you dig it? The growing importance of ethical considerations is transforming archaeology,” three ethical concerns dealing with archaeology are discussed. The first ethical concern is how archaeologists should treat human remains. The reason that this is an issue is because not every culture deals with human remains the same way. An example of this would be the World War two battle fields of France. Soldiers of different ethnicities from all over the world died there. So it is important for archaeologists to recognize the wide variety of cultural differences and treat all remains with respect. The second issue is ownership of artifacts. Many local people profit off artifacts by selling them to tourist. Archaeologists view this as looting. But who has the right to the artifacts then? The third issue has to do with site preservation. Should archaeologist preserve the sites or should these sites be left alone?

Historical archaeology is the study of people who have lived in a time period with a written record. Historical archaeology is closely associated with European colonization of much of the world beginning in the 15th century. This segment of archaeology is important because it helps to validate or dispel evidence in the written record. One must remember that much of what is written in the written record is both biased and selective. This is because history is generally written by the winners and those with the most power. Historical archaeologist take the best from both worlds (they compare the written record to the actual archaeological evidence they uncover from artifacts found) when researching a site. They do this with the hopes of understanding what truly happened back then.

Historical Archaeology

Historical Archaeology studies people and societies who lived during a time period with a written record, starting in the 15th Century and focusing on European Colonization. Built into historical archaeology is the important acknowledgement that the written record is often biased and selected. Instead of assuming the written record as a complete and valid history of people, historical archaeology uses it in tandem with material objects and artifacts to piece together the larger context of a past culture.

Historical Archaeology is not restricted to studying peoples who used and created a written record, but all people and cultures who existed during the time the record was written. This importantly includes minority and marginalized groups who may not have had the luxuries of writing technologies.

Historical Archaeology is particularly unique for several reasons. Not only does it have the secondary written account for use in reference and dating and to compare hypotheses against, but it includes some of the most recent histories and cultures. The discoveries are of and about periods of time that teach us about our own ancestors, or predecessors and therefore tend to hold a more significant emotional weight and investment. As a result, there are often more and more current groups who hold some stake in the historical archeology and its discoveries.

In contrast, Prehistoric archaeology relies solely on material discoveries, and Classical Archaeology looks at a period much farther removed from our current culture.

Ethical Issues Surrounding Archaeology

There are many areas of archaeology that can be surrounded by ethical issues.  I believe this is true with almost anything dealing with the study of people.  We see it in the writers of history, and even science.  There have been arguments for years dealing with the use of genetics and stem cell research to better the lives of people.  Archaeology is not the only science that deals with these types of issues.

The ethical issue that has come to my attention recently is the issues dealing with biblical archaeology.  We didn’t talk that much about biblical archaeology in this class.  Maybe it’s because we are in a shortened semester or maybe because it is such a controversial subject that it is just easer not talk about it.  Either way, I’m going to talk about it now.

Earlier in the semester I wrote about an article I read dealing with the controversial use of biblical archaeology in the Middle East. It was a National Geographic article titled Kings of Controversy. Throughout Israel there are many factions who want these biblical archaeologists to discover what they want them to discover.  The article details an archaeologist named Eilat Mazar who is funded by the City of David Foundation and the Shalem Center to find the City of David, and give credibility to the claims of Israel in the property they hold so dear.  By doing this some believe that it is a way for the Israelis to expand the country’s territory, and also displace the Palestine people who live within that territory.  Of course Mazar believes that she has found such a city which would give claim of the territory to the Israeli people, and continue her funding.  Opponents to Mazar state that “despite decade of searching, archaeologists had found no solid evidence that David or Solomon ever built anything,” and her evidence is solely the Bible’s depiction of the events that took place somewhere within that vicinity, and that she is holding the Bible as a historically accurate document.

What we see in the article is an archaeologist who is willing to bend her evidence in order to please the people who are funding her.  Of course the only reason why they are funding her research is to give credibility to the Israeli people of the region.  This is not a small thing.  Actions such as this may foster an environment where violence becomes more prevalent than it already is.  When research is used to foster violence, then there is definitely an ethical issue involved.


Ethical Issues

I can understand why ethics is necessary and important in the field of archaeology; in any field to be exact. As mentioned in the lecture, people in general are intrigued by and value any important information or artifact from the past; especially it pertains to their personal history/family. However, it is one thing to be intrigued, and it is another thing to be greedy. One of the main ethical issues of archaeology is the selling and purchasing of artifacts. I do have a couple questions though. What if an inhabitant or citizen of the land finds an artifact, but decides to keep it instead of selling it? What if they value it and want to keep it in their family because they feel it is a part of them? Is it then unethical?

In today’s society, people are consumed with the idea of money, status, and recognition. Discovering an artifact that could POSSIBLY be worth a substantial amount of money (from their perspective) would deter someone from submitting the artifact to the correct organization. Another problem with a novice and artifacts is the mishandle of the item. Not having any experience or familiarity with what should be done could also jeopardize the condition of the artifacts. The artifacts could be destroyed! That is most certainly a concern for archaeologists. Preservation of such invaluable items is essential to revealing another part of history. Although humans are a concern, we also have to put into consideration the animals and weather that could also destroy the context and sites.