When I mention that I’m interested in archaeology, the first question I’m generally asked is ‘found any treasure yet?’. Words cannot express the blazing fury that lights me from within. It’s such a common misunderstanding of what archaeology is. But an understandable one, given the popularity of Time Team.

But what is archaeology? Yes, I know the standard definition, study of material remains of the past, etc etc. But what is it?

To me, it is everything. It is the need to know everything about who and what we are, where we have come from, why we are how we are at this point in time, rather than the infinite other possibilities. It’s the understanding of how humans react and function, live and die. It’s why the landscape looks the way it does, why our modern cities are where they are. It’s why political borders are where they are, why parts of the Earth are fertile and bountiful and others are barren and wasted. It’s why we speak the languages we do, why we believe the things we believe. It’s everything.

For me, archaeology is the one course of study that encompasses almost all others. I’m learning about geology, materials science, chemistry, metallurgy, agriculture, weather systems, boatbuilding, psychology and probably many other subjects that I haven’t even noticed.

For me, archaeology is the study of the whys of human existence. Excuse me, I have a lot of reading to do…

Written on January 17th, 2011 , Musings

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Notes from a field