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Archaeological methods and methodologies

Archaeology has a suite of methods which enable us to access information about the past. In order to answer various questions about life in the past we must have some data to analyse. This data is accessed or created using various methodologies. All kinds of questions can be asked of archaeological data: Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why?

Conventional archaeological investigations include documentary or historical research. There is usually some degree of preliminary survey (whether using geophysics, aerial photography, oral history or other prospecting tools). This is followed by excavation in which a targeted (or sampled) area of the site or landscape is subjected to analysis. Artefacts and ecofacts are recorded for analysis and the different features of the site are recorded for posterity. All this enables the archaeologist to reconstruct the area of interest and examine the various aspects of the site. Typical questions that we might ask are: How does the distribution of finds change over time and what are the relationships between different areas of the site? Is there a clear division of the space according to gender or task roles, and what does this tell us about life in the past?

All of these are fairly conventional questions and conventional methodologies by which we might answer them. However, various weird and wonderful methods of studying the past abound. This section takes a look at some of the more weird and less wonderful.


Written by James Doeser

3 Responses to Dubious methodologies

  • Valentin says:

    Hancock´s research like some other authors is intended to accumulate evidence, pose questions and try some hypotheses. It is, as it happens in other branches of knowledge, a legitimate attempt to burst the bubble of official science and its rigid, boring and scholastic methods that pretend to discard anything that is not born from the method designed by Galileo (this pretention of uniqueness and absoluteness as one of its features inherited from its predecessor: the Christian Church).
    It would be long just to quote many breakthroughs in current science that have been incepted from the plain curiosity and audacious open-mindedness (which have also been battled fiercely by the corresponding elites of those times). Western science is -apart from honest scholars- a body of elitism, corruption and participation in mass control, and no wonder that anything uncomfortable for its status and dogmatic foundations should be written off. This pretention to write off any other possibility is even more ridiculous in the case of sciences as Archealogy, Anthropology or Economics in which most of its main methods are mere worthless myths with enormous mass manipulative value and minuscule practical value.

    • Helena says:

      Economics a science? Surely it is more of an art. When I studied it it was as part of humanities, along with law and accountancy actually.
      Why is it that people who so want to believe in Hancock et al and their half baked theories always start by denigrating science. As I understand it scientists work by trying to disprove their hypotheses. Rather the opposite of your view of them.

  • Number 80 says:

    In response to Valentin. You seem to be putting out some kind of conspiracy theory. When you refer to “…the bubble of official science and its rigid, boring and scholastic methods that pretend to discard anything that is not born from the method designed by Galileo (this pretention of uniqueness and absoluteness as one of its features inherited from its predecessor: the Christian Church). I am puzzled as to quite what you mean. Scholastic methods are rigid and boring? You would prefer the fantasies of someone like Hancock and his Atlantean speculations to evidence-based methods of archaeological and historical research?

    Your accusation of the “…pretention (sic) of uniqueness and absoluteness…” that science has inherited makes no sense. Science, in the real world, does not ever claim absoluteness. The scientific method allows us closer and closer approximations of reality but which can be, and often are, overturned by experiments that disprove a hypothesis. Who found Piltdown Man was a fake? Scientists. Who recently disproved the apparent faster than light particles emanating from the Large Hadron Collider? Scientists. The “science” as priesthood that you are referring to only exists in the minds of conspiracy theorists. Of course, that is only my contention which could be overturned by contradictory evidence.

    If you are so hasty as to consign real and scholarly archaeology to the trash at least have the courtesy to spell the word correctly. In America it is archeology and elsewhere archaeology. Nowhere is it “Archealogy” I use the word “hasty” as you appear to have spent little time studying the subject, as opposed to swallowing Hancock’s wild conjectures.

    Excuse the sharpness in tone of the above but I am sick and tired of hearing such unverified conspiracy theories – especially when they are utterly unoriginal and merely regurgitate hackneyed cliches.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!