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    10 Common Misconceptions About Archaeologistsby: Shana Leslie

     There are very few scientic elds as misunderstood as the eld of archaeology, and even fewerelds have been as romanticized. Anthropology, the parent eld of archaeology, is also the onlyscientic study not taught in American schools.

    iology, geology, geography, chemistry, computers and technology ! we"re introduced to the verybasics of these sciences before we even enter high school. #hy not archaeology andanthropology$ After all, anthropology is the study of human%ind&

    't"s no wonder there are so many misconceptions about archaeologists. (ere are the ten mostcommon:

    Archaeologists dig up dinosaurs: )ALS*

    Archaeologists do +T dig up dinosaurs. -aleontologists dig up dinosaurswhose bones have been fossilizing in the ground for around / million years.Archaeologists study the life and behavior of modern people, who rstappeared sometime around 011thousand years ago. 2inosaurs and humanbeings are separated by millions of year. 3alling an archaeologist apaleontologist is li%e calling a duc% a sh. They both li%e water, but they live intotally di4erent levels of it.

    Archaeologists don"t do anything useful: )ALS*

    Archaeology has long been viewed as a gloried academic hobbywith little real practical application. This may have been true acentury ago when archaeology was still growing as a discipline,but modern archaeology has grown up 5odern archaeologists

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    but modern archaeology has grown up 5odern archaeologists

    were crushed and lost in the onslaught of early e9cavators. Than%fully, those days are gone. Today"s e9cavations are meticulous, and every bit and artifact is plotted and recorded.*9cavations re8uire permits and approval, and graves are disturbed as little as possible seeArchaeologists li%e to dig up graves, below;. 'n the present, archaeologists are collecting and

    analyzing scientic data to uncover trends in human behavior, human ecology, and more. (umanremains are only uncovered when it"s legal to do so, and if doing so will help us answer specic8uestions about the culture being studied.

    Archaeologists spend most of their time e9cavating: )ALS*

    Some archaeologists wish this were true& *9cavation is only onepiece of the archaeological puzzle < a crucial piece. *9cavation isone cog in a systematic scientic machine whose goal is to answer aspecic research 8uestion.

    #hen an archaeologist e9cavates a site they collect data on everyaspect it ! soil samples, artifacts, features, =otation results.*verything that>s uncovered must be cleaned, measured, and

    cataloged. nce the data is compiled, the real analysis begins.

    )or every day spent e9cavating, wee%s or months are spent in an o?ce or lab, recording andanalyzing every detail.

    Archaeologists like to dig up graves: FALSE

    *9cavating human remains is tedious, time7consuming, costly, and oftencontroversial. The cleaning, analysis, curation, and repatriation of humanremains after e9cavation is also very e9pensive. ne s%eleton uncovered on asite can stop the rest of the dig in its trac%s, completely ta%ing over thee9cavation. Legal authorities must get involved and the paperwor% doubles.

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    reason to thin% that a random archaeologist %nows more about the pharaohs than the averagehobbyist.

    Archaeologists get to %eep their nds: )ALS*

    Archaeologists don"t get to %eep any of their nds, whether it"sgold, a well7preserved artifact, or 6ust a souvenir potsherd. *ven ifthey could, there are very few archaeologists who would horde apiece of the archaeological record. Archaeologists are scientists,and with that role comes pride and professionalism. There is a

    deep sense of desire in the archaeological community to ma%einformation available to other researchers and to the public.Archaeologists see themselves as the curators of humanity. #edon>t li%e to %eep things to ourselves. 't would be li%e a librarianstealing and hording boo%s from the library. 't>s silly&

    Archaeologists are running out of things to dig up: )ALS*

     There are two things that humans do really well. #e e9plore new lands,and leave trash behind when we do. The world is literally littered with011,111 years worth of modern man>s activities. *very country hasthousands and thousands of archaeological sites 7 most of which haveyet to be discovered. 5any well7%nown sites, where e9cavation has beenongoing for years, are only partially uncovered. )or e9ample, anestimated one7third of -ompeii still lies buried. 2igital and satellitetechnologies have enabled archaeologists to locate thousands of sitesthat were previously un%nown. The image to the left shows the morethan ,111 archaeological sites, most previously un%nown, that arevisible from a car in *ngland. These were compiled by archaeologyenthusiasts with the help of Boogle Street Ciew technology. ne

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     There"s only one %ind of archaeologist: )ALS*

    Li%e any eld, archaeology has its own branches and specializations. Aswell as the more DtraditionalD archaeologists, there are zooarchaeologistswho specialize in human7animal interactions, and help study hunting andanimal domestication. *9perimental archaeologists recreate thebehaviors of ancient people. They learn s%ills li%e =int7%napping, weaving,and butchering, to better understand how artifacts end up the way theydo. (istorical archaeologists specialize in cultures and sites for whichwriting is available, usually within the past few centuries. *nvironmental

    archaeologists specialize in reconstructing past ecosystems in whichpeople lived. They loo% at soil samples, pollen grains, insects, and other, often microscopic, cluesto nd out whether a site was a swamp, a forest, or a desert in the past. They also study howhumans impacted their environment, and wor% on applying those ndings to modernenvironmental policies and practices.

    Last @pdated: 0/ ctober 01E

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    Environmental Archaeology

    Richardson Gill carried out extensive work in environmental archaeology in order to study

    the impact of climatic changes on the Mayan society. According to his theory, acontinuous series of droughts were responsible for the numerous societal changes and

    subsequent decline of the ancient civiliation.

    !nvironmental archaeology deals with the study of interrelationship between the ancient

    people and their natural environment. "t involves three sub#disciplines of archaeology,

    vi., ooarchaeology that deals with the study of ancient animal remains, geoarchaeology

    that deals with the study of soil, sediments, rocks, natural deposits, etc., and

    archaeobotany that studies ancient plant remains. !nvironmental archaeology answersquestions relating to the kind of natural habitat that the ancient people were surrounded

    by, the plants and animals living in that age, varieties of wild and cultivated crops,

    animals that were hunted and those which were domesticated, species of plants and

    animals that are now extinct, climatic changes that took place over a period of time, and

    the e$ects that the changes in natural environment had on the lives of the people and on

    their subsequent disappearance. !nvironmental archaeology encompasses %eld studies

    along with laboratory experiments.


    &r. Malti 'agar carried out an ethnoarchaeological study at a chalcolithic site of Ahar in

    Ra(asthan, "ndia. )he found striking resemblances between the dotted designs on the

    clothes of the local tribal women and on the designs on the ancient ceramics recovered

    from the site. *his shows how artistic sensibilities travel from one time period to the


    !thnoarchaeolog is the science that deals ith the ethnographic in estigation of li ing

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    Landscape Archaeology

    A comprehensive study of a historical landscape with respect to the rise and decline of

    urbanism was done in the early -/0s by +ernard#1hilippe Groslier in the Angkor region of 2ambodia. 3e uncovered numerous evidences to show that overexploitation of landscape

    was the main factor responsible for the decline of urban centers in the area.

    4andscape archaeology is a broad division in archaeology that deals with the study of the

    various changes that take place in di$erent landscapes, both naturally as well as due to

    human intervention. n the basis of this, landscapes have been classi%ed into natural

    and cultural landscapes, for archaeological purposes. *he study of how landscapes and

    natural habitats are interlinked with human behavior and cultural changes is actually veryextensive. *here are a variety of changes that landscapes may undergo over a period of

    time. *hese include natural changes with respect to topography, climate, soil, natural

    calamities such as 5oods, landslides, tsunamis, rivers changing their courses, and so on,

    and human induced changes such as agriculture, industrial and construction activities,

    clearing of forest areas, etc. "nterestingly, the methods in landscape archaeology are also

    used in order to to analye inequalities that may have prevailed in a social structure at a

    given period of time.

    Household Archaeology

    &r. 1enelope Allison of the 6niversity of 4eicester had been excavating the household

    remains at 1ompeii. !vidences revealed a number of surgical instruments from many

    houses, which shows that %rst aid was available at the household level.

    3ousehold archaeology is a comparatively recent development in archaeology that

    happened between the late -70s and early -80s. "t involves a small#scale excavation

    ithin a gi en area on an archaeological site "t considers e er single household as a

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     *his is also known as marine archaeology or maritime archaeology. "t is associated with

    the study of underwater evidences such as shipwrecks, water#buried cities, and other

    inundated archaeological sites. "t is an expensive branch of archaeology and incurs a

    much higher cost than any terrestrial archaeological excavation. >nowledge of speci%ctechniques and methods that need to be adopted in order to carry out excavations

    underwater is a prerequisite. Archaeologists practicing in this %eld attempt to discover

    submerged evidences by diving into the deep waters along with sophisticated

    archaeological tools. An underwater excavation may also turn out to be a little risky at

    times because one cannot guess what the conditions under the sea would be like.

    3owever, it makes an exciting profession for adventure lovers.

    Aviation Archaeology

    "n ?00/, 3ungarian archaeologists used methods of geophysical survey in order to locate

    a lost plane that crashed in +udapest during @orld @ar "". Remains recovered from this

    excavation included the planes engine block, a part of one of its wings, a part where the

    ammunition was kept, etc.

    Aviation archaeology deals with %nding historical remains of aircraft, air#borne weaponry,

    abandoned air bases or runways, and the like. "n short, it deals with everything that has

    to do with the history of aviation. )ometimes, remains from aircraft crashes are found

    under the sea, which are eventually recovered, recorded and studied. "t is due to this

    reason that many people consider aviation archaeology as a branch of marine

    archaeology, but this may only be true to a limited extent. *his is because there are also

    a number of aviation archaeological remains found on land, in which case, it becomes aseparate division in itself. 2rash sites di$er largely in magnitude and remains. *he

    remains range from military remains to civil remnants. "nstances of ancient air bases

    found by aviation archaeologists have also been recorded. As far as the actual

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    military history. *hese so#called war sites give valuable evidences to events, which took

    place not only during a given war, but also before and after it, because not only actual

    battle%elds but even military camp sites provide valuable evidences. Also, (ust as all

    other sites tell us about how and when people lived, war sites tell us how and when theydied. All in all, battle%eld archaeology is an engrossing case#study of how written

    historical accounts can undergo changes when actual material remains relating to the

    recorded events are uncovered.

    Commercial Archaeology

    "n the -B0s, )ir Mortimer @heeler excavated at Arikamedu, near 1ondicherry, )outh

    "ndia. !vidently, this site was a %shing village and an important foreign trading port

    during -st century +.2. Artifacts recovered include Roman coins, statues, beads,

    glassware and pottery.

    2ommercial archaeology is actually a sub#discipline of archaeology, which deals with

    everything that is related to commerce and trade. *his includes evidences with respect to

    the commodities that were traded and bartered, numismatic %nds, ancient forms oftransportation that were used for commercial purposes, and so on. *he study of ancient

    trade routes and sea ports, harbors and marketplaces, is also included in commercial

    archaeology. *his is a very gripping study, as it answers questions such as which

    countries had trade relations and in what commodities, what were the media of exchange

    between them, how the commodities were transported, who and what all was involved,

    how they coordinated, etc. Many a time, at commercial sites, ancient inscriptions are

    found, which are obviously very valuable resources that are used for recording economichistories.

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    include those related to activities such as manufacturing, mining, quarrying, milling,

    building roads and other infrastructure, etc.

    Salvage Archaeology

     *he *urkish )tate @ater &epartment proposed to build a number of dams on the

    !uphrates and *igris rivers in -8=. *he extent of this pro(ect also covered nearly half a

    mile of Eeugma, an ancient Anatolian trading center. Rescue excavations on the site

    uncovered numerous structures, mosaics, stone sculptures, etc.

    )alvage archaeology, also known as rescue archaeology, is a name given to an

    archaeological excavation which needs to be carried out in an emergency and with

    utmost urgency on threatened sites. )alvage archaeological operations are carried out on

    sites that are on the verge of being destroyed by new road constructions, dams,

    buildings, or any other kind of infrastructure development. *he duty of the archaeologist

    then, is to locate as many sites as possible in an assigned area, explore them, and

    excavate them if deemed necessary, and ultimately record in detail all the %nds that have

    been procured. Generally, in case of salvage archaeology, time is a constraint, and sodetailed excavation is di:cult to carry out. *herefore, archaeologists tend to record

    whatever is found on the surface at the time of exploration. +ut, if it is realied during the

    exploration that the site holds a prominent place in history, then detailed excavation can

    be carried out and can thus alter the construction plans in some way or the other.

    Experimental Archaeology

    A classic example of practical application of the methods of experimental archaeology,

    which was also aired on television worldwide was a series known as 4iving in the 1ast

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    especially structures, are seldom found intactF the replication mostly depends on the

    perception of the archaeologist.

    orensic Archaeology

    4aw enforcement agencies went on to employ forensic archaeologists in order to

    investigate the genocide that took place in Rwanda in -B. *hey proved to be of great

    help in locating the graves and in %nding valuable evidences to be presented in the court

    of law.

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    What Tools do Archaeologists UseFor people interested in archaeology, the information about what tools do archaeologists use would prove

    to be helpful. Archaeology is all about discovering facts about past human culture to gain insight into the

    practices they followed; their architecture and culture in general...


    A science in which human culture is studied through the

    recovery of artifacts, fossils, architecture, biofacts, etc. to carry

    out further research is known as archaeology. The excavated

    items are studied after documenting them properly. The

    analysis and interpretation of artifacts, environmental data,

    material culture, etc. form important steps in further research.

    Since excavation forms an important part of archaeological

    studies, it is necessary to have knowledge about what kind of 

    tools do archaeologists use in these excavations.

    Excavation by archaeologists can be carried out in soft or hard soils. In few cases, they may even have to

    go underwater for excavations. Therefore, many different tools are required by them, for the different

    locations and different types of excavations. The archaeologists tool kit may contain two types of 

    equipment, commonly used field site tools and those used by specialists. Let us find out what tools

    archaeologists use in recovering artifacts.

    Field Site Tools

    Field site equipment include digging tools, recording apparatus and safety kit. Digging tools help in

    breaking the soil crust and uncovering artifacts. Here is a list of the various tools used by archaeologists.

    k d l l h k h k d b k h d d d

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    Tools Used by Specialists

    The archaeological tools mentioned below are mostly used in a laboratory environment. The information

    about what tools do archaeologists use in laboratories is presented below.

    Flotation Device: The flotation device is used to separate smaller and larger artifacts by the method

    of light and heavy fraction. Soil samples which contain artifacts are kept in metal baskets and

    washed by gentle streams of water. Light artifacts (for example, seeds) float at the top, while the

    heavier objects sink down.

    Equipment for Analysis: Simple tools like calipers and cotton gloves are needed to carry out the

    analysis of artifact fragments. Gloves serve the purpose of preventing cross-contamination.

    Nested Graduated Screens: Nested graduated screen are used for size-grading. In the process of 

    size-grading, the percentage of artifacts falling in different size-ranges are found out. Nestedgraduated screens used for this purpose have small mesh openings at the bottom and larger ones

    at the top.

    Weighing and Measuring: The artifacts obtained in excavations are carefully analyzed by weighing

    and measuring them. Different types of scales are used for finding out correct measurements.

    Archaeology is a vast discipline that uses artifacts as a means of delving into the history of past human

    civilizations. It would be useful to find out why is archaeology important along with the information of 

    tools presented above. The various tools used in excavations and laboratories are of great importance infinding out details of artifacts.

    By Shashank Nakate

    Last Updated: September 21, 2011

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      1. The Maya believed people were created from maize.  T | F 

      2. People living in different Maya cities all spoke the same language.  T | F 

      3. The Maya civilization extended from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to Panama.  T | F 

      4. The Maya used wooden boards to elongate infants’ heads.  T | F 

      5. The Maya used looms to weave their own clothing.  T | F 

      6. The Maya put gold fillings in their teeth.  T | F 

      7. Cacao beans were used to make jewelry.  T | F 

      8. The Maya believed the number 13 was very unlucky.  T | F 

     Maya or


    A True or False Quiz

    The ancient Maya were expert mathematicians,

    scientists, and architects who believed in human

    sacrifice and sacred rituals. Take this True or Falsequiz to test your knowledge of the ancient Maya.

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    PART 1: Match each artifact with the fact about Maya culture that best describes it.Write the letter that matches on the line.



    Archaeologists are scientists who search for artifacts so they

    can learn more about ancient places and the people who lived

    there in the past. They make inferences and draw conclusions

    about the meaning of the artifacts to figure out how or why

    the items were used by a group of people. “Dig” through theseclues to learn more about the ancient Maya culture.


      1. cacao pot ____  A.  an instrument used to grind maize

      2. metate ____ B.  highly decorated glazed pottery used for trade

      3. arrowhead ____ C.  dental fillings often made of jade and usuallyreserved for the Maya elite

      4. scepter ____ D.  an item used to communicate with the gods

      5. ballcourt marker ____ E.  a vessel used to hold a sacred food

      6. stingray spines ____ F.  protective wear used by Maya warriors

      7. tooth inlays ____ G.  a staff used by a Maya king

      8. shell goggles ____ H.  a circular feature that established a dividing linebetween teams in Maya ball games

      9. incense burner ____ I.  instruments used for bloodletting

      10. plumbate pot ____  J.  a weapon made from obsidian, a volcanic glass




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     Maya Number System


    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21


    The Maya number system is very different from the system you use daily—the Maya used only threesymbols to represent all numbers! They used a dot to represent 1, a line to represent 5, and a shell to

    represent 0. The Maya wrote their numbers vertically and used zero as a placeholder. Many believethat the Maya were the first people to use a symbol for zero.

    The Maya used a place value system based on 20s, not 10s like the number system we use today.

    So the place values were multiples of 20s: 1s, 20s (20x1), 400s (20x20), 8,000s (20x400), and so on.

    HERE’S HOW IT WORKED: Numbers 1 through 4 were written using a row of dots.

    The number 5 was written as a horizontal line. Numbers 6 through 19 were writtenusing a combination of lines and dots, or 5s and 1s.

    For example:

    • 6 was written as one line with one dot above it: (5+1)

    • 10 was written using two lines: (5+5)

    • 19 was written as three stacked lines with a row of four dots on top of them:(5+5+5+1+1+1+1)

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    PART ONE: Find the solution to eachequation below. Write your answers usingMaya numerals.


    + =

     x =

    + =

    – =

    PART TWO: To find the value of greater Maya numbers, multiply the value of the Mayanumeral by the value of its place. Then add the values together. Calculate the value of theMaya numbers presented below.

    • 303 was written as three lines in the 20s place, and

    three dots in the 1s place: ((5+5+5) x 20) + (1+1+1)

    • 420 was written with one dot in the 400s place, one

    dot in the 20s place, and one shell in the 1s place:

    (1x400) + (1x20) + (0x1)

    • 4,008 was written as two lines in the 400s place, one

    shell in the 20s place, and three dots above a line in

    the 1s place: (10x400) + (0x20) + (8x1)

    For numbers greater than 19, the symbols were arranged vertically in place values, with the greatest value on top.

    Each place value was 20 times greater than the one that came before it. Look at the examples below.

       M  a  y  a   P   l  a  c  e   V  a   l  u  e  s 8,000




     Value ofNumber 303 420 4,008

       M  a  y  a   P   l  a  c  e   V  a   l  u  e  s 8,000




     Value ofNumber