Archaeology: A Brief Introduction

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9780673523365: Archaeology: A Brief Introduction

Brief and highly engaging, this introduction to the fundamental principles of method and theory in archaeology begins with the goals of archaeology, then goes on to consider the basic concepts of culture, time, and space, and the finding and excavation of archaeological sites. The volume provides an introduction to archaeology and prehistory and puts culture, space and time, the present and the past, settlement and trade in an archaeological context. It also addresses finding archaeological sites, excavation, classification and technology, ancient climate and environment and the archaeology of society. For those interested in a thorough presentation of how archaeologists study human behavior in the past.

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Archaeology—a romantic subject, redolent of lost civilizations and grinning skeletons dripping with gold, the realm of pith-helmeted men and women who are adventurers and scholars at the same time, of movies like The Mummy Returns. But is this reality? Most archaeologists have never worn a pith helmet, have never discovered gold, and will never unearth a long-forgotten civilization. Nor do most archaeological sites yield rich treasure or even human remains. The romance is not always there, but the world of modern archaeology is deeply fascinating all the same. This book is a journey through that world in all its intriguing diversity. It is designed to give you some idea of how archaeologists go about studying human behavior in the past.

Archaeology: A Brief Introduction, Eighth Edition, is a brief introduction to the fundamental principles of method and theory in archaeology, beginning with the goals of archaeology, going on to consider the basic concepts of culture, time, and space, and discussing the finding and excavation of archaeological sites. The last four chapters summarize some of the ways in which archaeologists order and study their finds. Throughout the book, I emphasize the ethics behind archaeology, ending with a discussion of careers in archaeology and how we should act as stewards of the finite records of the human past. This is a book with an ardently international perspective, for archaeology is the most global of all sciences, encompassing all humanity, not just, say, North America or Europe.

Most readers will encounter this book as a supplement to an introductory anthropology course, or as part of a broader archaeology offering. It is designed for complete beginners, so every attempt has been made to keep technical jargon to a minimum. Inevitably, a book of this length and scope glosses over many complex problems or smoldering controversies. I have proceeded on the assumption that at this stage, a positive overstatement is better than a complex piece of inconclusive reasoning. Errors of overstatement can always be corrected in class or at a more advanced stage.

If there is a theme to this volume, it is that the patterning of archaeological artifacts we find in the ground can provide valuable insights into human behavior in the past. In pursuing this theme, I have attempted to focus on the basic concepts of archaeology and leave the instructor to impose his or,her own theoretical viewpoints on the various chapters that follow. In the intetrests of simplicity, too, I have drawn again and again on a few relatively well-known sites from New World and Old World archaeology, such as Olduvai Gorge and Teotihuacan, rather than distracting readers with a multitude of site names. I have added brief descriptions of these major sites in a special "Sites and Cultures" information section at the back of the book, where a glossary of technical terms will also be found.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EIGHTH EDITION

This is an exciting time to be writing about archaeology because major scientific advances in many fields are transforming our ability to reconstruct the remote past. Increasingly, archaeology is becoming a multidisciplinary field, and the eighth edition of this book reflects this fact. In general, however, the book remains much the same, because the basic principles of archaeology remain unchanged through the years, whatever new theoretical approaches or high-tech scientific methods are brought to bear on the past. These basic principles provide the foundation for all the many research projects that archaeologists carry out, whether close to home or far afield, whether academic research or cultural resource management.

Updating and Rewriting

  • New perceptions of archaeology. Chapter 2 includes discussion of archaeology and alternative perspectives on the past, reflecting new thinking on this important topic.
  • Rearrangement of Chapter 8. "The Present and the Past" has been moved to later in the book, as a preliminary to the chapters discussing reconstruction of the past.
  • Expanded coverage of ancient technologies—in response to instructor and student requests—within the space limits imposed by the book.
  • Expanded coverage of environment and climate. Chapter 9 summarizes ways in which scientists study long- and short-term climatic change. The study of ancient climate and its impact on ancient societies has been revolutionized in recent years and reflects a major advance in archaeology sufficient to justify an entire chapter.
  • Coverage of ancient technology has been expanded. Discussion of gender and ethnicity has been updated extensively.
  • Update of theory. Chapter 13, "Explaining the Past," has been updated to discuss new advances in theoretical approaches to archaeology.
  • A completely new Chapter 14. Frank advice on archaeology as a career in an era when academic positions are shrinking and archaeology is becoming a profession.
  • Expanded coverage of ethics and gender, important topics in archaeology today, occurs throughout the book and in sections of Chapters 12 and 14.
  • Revision and updating throughout. The entire text and Guide to Further Reading have been revised and updated on a page-by-page basis.

New and Revised Art Program

The eighth edition's art program has been expanded, with new photographs and fresh or revised line art. The new illustrations provide additional background on recent discoveries, amplify the narrative, or replace older art with new pictures. Some expanded captions serve to integrate the illustrations more closely into the text.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The eighth edition has benefited from the expertise of many colleagues, too numerous to list here. I am deeply grateful for their encouragement and assistance. I would like to thank the following reviewers for their help in revising the eighth edition. I appreciate their frank comments: Judith A. Habicht-Mauche, University of California-Santa Cruz; Randall McGuire, State University of New York-Binghamton; Alan H. Simmons, University of Nevada-Las Vegas; Tamra L. Walter, Texas Tech University; Michael R. Waters, Texas A&M University.

Lastly, my thanks to my editor, Nancy Roberts, and her assistant, Lee Peterson, for much encouragement and many kindnesses, also to the production staff at Prentice Hall. They have turned a complex manuscript into an attractive book and done all they could to minimize unexpected difficulties.

As always, I would be most grateful for criticisms, comments, or details of new work, sent to me c/o Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 (E-Mail: brian@brianfagan.com).

Brian M. Fagan

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