Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

Archaeology Essays – Archaeological Excavation

Category Archaeology
Essay type Research
Words 1617 (6 pages)
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Can archeological digging of sites non under immediate menace of development or eroding be justified morally? Explore the pros and cons of research ( as opposed to deliver and salve ) digging and non-destructive archeological research methods utilizing specific illustrations.

Many people believe that archeology and archeologists are chiefly concerned with digging – with delving sites. This may be the common public image of archeology, as frequently portrayed on telecasting, although Rahtz ( 1991, 65-86 ) has made clear that archaeologists in fact do many things besides excavate. Drewett ( 1999, 76 ) goes farther, noticing that ‘it must ne'er be assumed that digging is an indispensable portion of any archeological fieldwork’ . Excavation itself is a dearly-won and destructive research tool, destructing the object of its research forever ( Renfrew and Bahn 1996, 100 ) . Of the present twenty-four hours it has been noted that instead than wanting to delve every site they know about, the bulk of archeologists work within a preservation moral principle that has grown up in the past few decennaries ( Carmichaelet Al. 2003, 41 ) . Given the displacement to excavation taking topographic point largely in a deliverance or salvage context where the archeology would otherwise face devastation and the inherently destructive nature of digging, it has become appropriate to inquire whether research digging can be morally justified. This essay will seek to reply that inquiry in the affirmatory and besides explore the pros and cons of research digging and non-destructive archeological research methods.

If the moral justification of research digging is questionable in comparing to the digging of threatened sites, it would look that what makes deliverance digging morally acceptable is the fact that the site would be lost to human cognition if it was non investigated. It seems clear from this, and seems widely accepted that digging itself is a utile fact-finding technique. Renfrew and Bahn ( 1996, 97 ) suggest that digging ‘retains its cardinal function in fieldwork because it yields the most dependable grounds archeologists are interested in’ . Carmichaelet Al. ( 2003, 32 ) note that ‘excavation is the agencies by which we entree the past’ and that it is the most basic, specifying facet of archeology. As mentioned above, digging is a dearly-won and destructive procedure that destroys the object of its survey. Bearing this in head, it seems that it is possibly the context in which digging is used that has a bearing on whether or non it is morally justifiable. If the archeology is bound to be destroyed through eroding or development so its devastation through digging is vindicated since much informations that would otherwise be lost will be created ( Drewett 1999, 76 ) .

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If rescue digging is justifiable on the evidences that it prevents entire loss in footings of the possible informations, does this mean that research digging is non morally justifiable because it is non merely ‘making the best usage of archeological sites that must be consumed’ ( Carmichaelet Al. 2003, 34 ) ? Many would differ. Critics of research digging may indicate out that the archeology itself is a finite resource that must be preserved wherever possible for the hereafter. The devastation of archeological grounds through unneeded ( ie non-emergency ) digging denies the chance of research or enjoyment to future coevalss to whom we may owe a tutelary responsibility of attention ( Rahtz 1991, 139 ) . Even during the most responsible diggings where detailed records are made, 100 % recording of a site is non possible, doing any non-essential digging about a willful devastation of grounds. These unfavorable judgments are non entirely valid though, and surely the latter holds true during any digging, non merely research diggings, and certainly during a research undertaking there is likely to be more clip available for a full recording attempt than during the statutory entree period of a deliverance undertaking. It is besides debateable whether archeology is a finite resource, since ‘new’ archeology is created all the clip. It seems ineluctable though, that single sites are alone and can endure devastation but although it is more hard and possibly unwanted to deny that we have some duty to continue this archeology for future coevalss, is it non besides the instance that the present coevalss are entitled to do responsible usage of it, if non to destruct it? Research digging, best directed at replying potentially of import research inquiries, can be done on a partial or selective footing, without upseting or destructing a whole site, therefore go forthing countries for later research workers to look into ( Carmichaelet Al. 2003, 41 ) . Furthermore, this can and should be done in concurrence with non-invasive techniques such as aerial picture taking, land, geophysical and chemical study ( Drewett 1999, 76 ) . Continued research digging besides allows the pattern and development of new techniques, without which such accomplishments would be lost, forestalling future digging technique from being improved.

An first-class illustration of the benefits of a combination of research digging and non-destructive archeological techniques is the work that has been done, despite expostulations, at the Anglo-saxon graveyard at Sutton Hoo, in eastern England ( Rahtz 1991 136-47 ; Renfrew and Bahn 1996, 98-99 ) . Excavation originally took topographic point on the site in 1938-39 uncovering many hoarded wealths and the feeling in sand of a wooden ship used for a burial, though the organic structure was non found. The focal point of these runs and those of the sixtiess were traditional in their attack, being concerned with the gap of burial hills, their contents, dating and placing historical connexions such as the individuality of the residents. In the 1980s a new run with different purposes was undertaken, directed by Martin Carver. Rather than get downing and stoping with digging, a regional study was carried out over an country of some 14ha, assisting to put the site in its local context. Electronic distance measurement was used to make a topographical contour map prior to other work. A grass expert examined the assortment of grass species on-site and identified the places of some 200 holes dug into the site. Other environmental surveies examined beetles, pollen and snails. In add-on, a phosphate study, declarative mood of likely countries of human business, corresponded with consequences of the surface study. Other non-destructive tools were used such as metal sensors, used to map modern trash. A proton gaussmeter, fluxgate gradiometer and dirt electric resistance were all used on a little portion of the site to the E, which was subsequently excavated. Of those techniques, electric resistance proved the most enlightening, uncovering a modern ditch and a dual palisade, every bit good as some other characteristics ( see comparative illustrations in Renfrew and Bahn 1996, 99 ) . Excavation subsequently revealed characteristics that had non been remotely detected. Electric resistance has since been used on the country of the hills while soil-sounding radio detection and ranging, which penetrates deeper than electric resistance, is being used on the hills themselves. At Sutton Hoo, the techniques of geophysical study are seen to run as a complement to digging, non simply a preliminary nor yet a replacing. By trialling such techniques in concurrence with digging, their effectivity can be gauged and new and more effectual techniques developed. The consequences at Sutton Hoo suggest that research digging and non-destructive methods of archeological research remain morally justifiable.

However, merely because such techniques can be applied expeditiously does non intend that digging should be the precedence nor that all sites should be excavated, but such a scenario has ne'er been a likely one due to the usual restraints such as support. Besides, it has been noted above that there is already a tendency towards preservation. Continued research digging at celebrated sites such as Sutton Hoo, as Rahtz notes ( 1991, 140-41 ) , is justified since it serves professedly to develop archeological pattern itself ; the physical remains, or forms in the landscape can be and are restored to their former visual aspect with the fillip of being better understood, more educational and interesting ; such alien and particular sites capture the imaginativeness of the populace and the media and raise the profile of archeology as a whole. There are other sites that could turn out every bit good illustrations of morally justifiable long term research archeology, such as Wharram Percy ( for which see Rahtz 1991, 148-57 ) . Progressing from a straightforward digging in 1950, with the purpose of demoing that the earthworks represented mediaeval edifices, the site grew to stand for much more in clip, infinite and complexness. Techniques used expanded from digging to include study techniques and aerial picture taking to put the small town into a local context.

In decision, it can be seen that while digging is destructive, there is a morally justifiable topographic point for research archeology and non-destructive archeological techniques: digging should non be reduced merely to deliver fortunes. Research digging undertakings, such as Sutton Hoo, have provided many positive facets to the development of archeology and cognition of the past. While digging should non be undertaken lightly, and non-destructive techniques should be employed in the first topographic point, it is clear that every bit yet they can non replace digging in footings of the sum and types of informations provided. Non-destructive techniques such as environmental sampling and electric resistance study have, provided important complementary informations to that which digging provides and both should be employed.

Bibliography
Carmichael, D.L. , Lafferty III, R.H. and Molyneaux, B.L. 2003.Excavation.Walnut Creek and Oxford: Altamira Press.
Drewett, P.L. 1999.Field Archaeology: An Introduction. London: UCL Press.
Rahtz, P. 1991.Invitation to Archaeology. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P.1996.Archeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. 2nd edition. London: Thames & A ; Hudson.



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