A Struggle to Uncover the Past Today

I don’t think people outside the anthropology community really understand how today’s technologies and structures are obstacles anthropologists and archaeologists now need to overcome in order to uncover the past. With ancient cities becoming growing and bustling cities full of millions of people like Rome, Cairo, and Mexico City, it becomes difficult to excavate as carefully as an archaeologist would prefer to in these infamous antique cities. An article from the New York Times discussed a recent discovery of a female skeleton of possible noble Aztec descent in the heart of the vast city of Mexico city led by archaeologist Raul Barrera and his team. The site was the remains of an ancient Aztec temple, Templo Mayor, that had been decimated by the Spanish and replaced with their new empire and from then it has transformed into Mexico City today.

Archaeologists have been uncovering the site with a few issues. “To get there, Mr. Barrera’s team must first navigate the electricity lines and water mains that are the guts of the modern city and then travel down through a colonial layer, which yields its own set of artifacts,” these are the obstacles today’s archaeologists have to overcome when it comes to excavating the once ancient cities. With all of the limited access the point the article makes is, “Mexico City’s archaeologists cannot dig anywhere they please,” which puts a damper on the possibilities that lie under bustling cities. Even with the limitations, the discoveries found on this site like the noble female skeleton, remains of ball court, and a small plaza. Sadly the ball court is under a Spanish cathedral and street.

The site of Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City

The site of Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City

This also makes the whole field of archaeology more interesting to me. How do archaeologists deal with this? And what does it take to excavate in cities like Mexico City and still obtaining all the information from the site? Being an archaeologist today is not like how it was a few centuries ago with all the open land and smaller population, it would make it more possible to excavate a site without the technologies and buildings that sprawl majority of the land on the planet. Being an Anthropology major myself, I find this fascinating and also a little intimidating because if I want to pursue a career as an archaeologist, this will be what I will have to deal with when excavating sites in large cities like Mexico City in the future.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/world/americas/mexico-citys-aztec-past-keeps-emerging-in-the-present.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

1 thought on “A Struggle to Uncover the Past Today

  1. I was thinking about this when I was writing my post too. I don’t know how archaeologists deal with situations like this, where they are unable to dig or excavate certain sites because of the massive populations or the man-made creations have limited their ability to remove objects in order to explore. Furthermore, what will archaeologists of the future do? As our population continues to grow exponentially, before we know it (much like Japan has done/continues to do) we will be just be building higher and higher into the sky as we run out of space on the ground. Will we destroy our national parks to make room for big business or government exploits or even for families looking for a place to live alone? Although it may seem like we have a long time before our population gets that far, we never know how far off it may be. And that is partially what concerns me, because as our forefathers unknowingly chipped away at the health of our planet, we continue to knowingly do the same. And as we use fossil fuels or drill in exclusive areas, we make it harder for future generations; and I’m no longer just talking about future generations of archaeologists, I’m talking about future generations period. And although it is slightly off the point of how my post started, your post really brought this up in my mind. Especially the article that shows how Mr. Barrera had so many man-made obstacles already to deal with (water/electricity lines, sewage, etc.) and how many more obstacles can be imagined as we become an increasingly technological-reliant society.

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