What is Archaeology?
The common understanding of archaeology is that it involves digging into the past. The physical activity results may reveal artifacts, monuments, human remains from millions of years or hundreds of years ago. It depends on the dig site and its purpose, although chance plays a role in many discoveries. Some notable sites have been found by locals, purely by accident. One famous example is the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 by a group of young Bedouin sheepherders. While searching for a lost goat, one of them entered a cave where he saw many clay jars. The herders were unaware of the monumental significance of their find at the time, as they sold the jars to a Bethlehem antiquities dealer for the equivalent of $50. The scrolls and other accidental discoveries typically inspire archaeologists to explore the sites.
There is no single hotspot for archaeologists to conduct digs around the world. Each year, these professionals and crews make history by removing dirt and sand and crawling into caves in numerous countries. The following are examples of discoveries from 2019.
Suffolk, England: Archaeologists unearthed seventeen decapitated skeletons from a 1,700 year-old Roman cemetery. It appeared that the skulls had been removed after death.
Egypt: Always one of the premier spots to find ancient relics, which was the case with the discovery of the tomb of Khuwy. Archaeologists dated the colorfully painted interior of the Egyptian official’s tomb to be 4,400 years old.
Ecuador: Two infants buried around 2,100 years ago had what appeared to be helmets made from other children’s skulls.
Some archaeologists conduct digs in ancient biblical cities and locations to prove or disprove events related in the bible. In 2020, the exploration of a site 20 miles west of Jerusalem was interrupted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiated by Harding University in Arkansas, the intent was to unearth an ancient Canaanite shrine in Beth Shemesh. It is the purported location where the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel (I Samuel: 6).
Israel is a hotspot for archaeologists with excavations under schools’ supervision, such as the University of California, Cornerstone University in Michigan, and Azusa Pacific University School of Theology in California. Also, the New Orleans Baptist Seminary concluded a nine-year excavation of the Tel Gezer water system believed to be 4,000 years old. Archaeologists believe the Canaanites chiseled out the waterway through solid rock.
To show the diversity of locales and periods involved, the following are examples of archaeology events scheduled or performed before or during 2020. However, because of the pandemic, some were postponed.
A 2020 dig at Westminster Abbey in London revealed a sacristy used by monks in the 13th century. Constructed around 1250 by King Henry III, the monks used the place to store vestments, altar linens, and chalices.
Divers discovered a mining site for red ocher pigments at La Mina in a water-filled cave beneath the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Archaeologists reported the mine to be 11,000 years old.
In northern Spain, archaeologists discovered prehistoric rock carvings (petroglyphs) of deer, horses, and bulls believed to be 15,000 years-old in a cave. The two-mile-long caverns stretch about 60 miles from Barcelona, known as the Cave of Font Major.
At the southwestern tip of Spain, archaeologists discovered cave artwork likely created by Neanderthals about 64,000 years ago. As reported in 2018, the find had a profound effect on human history as scientists opined that human habitation in Western Europe didn’t occur until 20,000 years ago.
A 2016 article in The Guardian reported the discovery of stone tools on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Scientists dated the tools at 118,000 years old or more. The 311 stone implements were hard limestone and created by hammering one stone against the other to make a sharp edge.
As stated above, there are no hotspots for archaeology digs, whether on land, beneath lakes, rivers, or oceans. Around the globe, archaeologists search incessantly to answer questions about our past and change history as we know it. To prove the geographical range, here are additional samples from recent research:
- A 2,400-year-old mask of the ancient Greek god Dionysus unearthed in Daskyleion, Anatolia (Turkey)
- A 1st-century Roman fort uncovered at Burscough, England
- A 6th millennium BC megalithic monument discovered in Dumat al-Jandal, Saudi Arabia
- Remains of at least sixty mammoths found at an airport construction site in Mexico
- 8,000-year-old fluted arrowheads found at sites in Oman and Yemen
- Researchers discover 15,528 artifacts dated between 13,200 and 15,500 years ago near Austin, Texas
To expand your knowledge in archaeology, check out Current Archaeology online, or subscribe to their magazine. Another source of information is the Biblical Archaeology Society and Archaeology. You can also get a taste by taking an archaeology vacation in any of 39 countries.