Is it years of historical research or just complete luck that has enabled archaeologists to find the artefacts they have? BOTH!!
The first job of the archaeologist is to find a site for investigation. I mean you wouldn’t start digging just anywhere for any old thing would you? Research must be done by archaeologists so they can narrow down their search. This research can come from many forms of historical study such as pictures or written documents. Looking for particular sites creates 2 obstacles for the archaeologist…is the site above ground or below ground?
Above Ground Sites
This is certainly the easier of the two as parts of the site can be visible from the ground. An example of an above ground site worked on by archaeologists would be the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. While they were easily spotted by archaeologists, their use and how they were built are questions which are constantly researched by archaeologists today.
Have a look at this website for more information on the construction of Pyramids: www.ancientegypt.co.uk/pyramids/home.html
Archaeologists were pleasantly surprised to find the mummified remains of ancient Pharaoh’s buried in Pyramids. Although not traditionally buried in a Pyramid, the boy king Tutenkhamun is perhaps one of the best known Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. For more info on him, why not check this site out: www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/tutankhamen
Below Ground Sites
So these are a little more tricky! These are sites which are not clearly visible to people, they have become buried below the surface.
1) Chance Discovery
Some important sites found in the world were actually done by accident, when people were building or ploughing the earth and unearthed sites. The building of new roads and city blocks has uncovered evidence. This has resulted in Rescue or Salvage Archaeology. These sites have to be investigated before work continues. A perfect example of this was found in China, where workers accidentally discovered a vault below the surface. This vault turned out to be an ancient Chinese Mausoleum. But not just any mausoleum…this housed what we now term the Terracotta Warriors. An estimated 8,000 statues believed to be the personal bodyguards of the Emperor to protect him in the afterlife!
We recommend you skip to 7:56 for info on China and the Terracotta Warriors
2) Stories From History
Many stories that happened a long time ago were based on actual events. These stories were later recorded on documents, manuscripts and maps. If we take the story of Troy as our example..a German Archaeologist by the name of Heinrich Schliemann was fascinated by this apparent epic battle. The issue that many historians had with the story of Troy was that accounts of the story were told much later than the supposed time of the event. Furthermore, the destruction of the city of Troy left such little evidence that historians and archaeologists alike with a mammoth task of finding it’s true geographical location. Check out this short 3 part documentary on the find:
3) Aerial Photography
They can show evidence of artefacts or buildings that may not be seen at eye level. Crop Marks are a way of showing us if there are walls present underneath the surface.
Here shows an example of Crop Marks
Patterns in the soil seen from above have also given archaeologists and historians clues into other factors of peoples lives such as seen in Nazca in Peru. These Hieroglyphs are man made shapes found in Nazca. The Incas who occupied the area were believed to be appealing to the Gods. They relied on the favors of Gods for good harvesting but it is believed that during this time, they had fallen out of favor with the Gods. These images were made in the hope of pleasing them. This has given Archaeologists a great insight into these people’s beliefs and lifestyle.
4) Underwater Evidence
The use of Sonar, submarines and diving gear can help archaeologists locate sites underwater. One such site is the 8,000 year old Yonaguni-Jima in Japan.
So that’s that! An archaeologists relies on many things to help them discover a site. Sometimes they win the lotto (in a manner of speaking) and the site just comes to them. For some interesting discoveries made by archaeologists around the world and for some cool Irish finds..stay on this site and check out more on the “Work of the Archaeologist”