Science & Archaeology
Archaeology is human history written through objects.
Archaeology is the study of human history interpreted through finds of material culture (artifacts), structures (houses, graves, forts, temples) and settlements (camps, towns, cities, etc). Archaeological interpretation is dependent on many different disciplines in the social and natural sciences and mathematics: anthropology, geology, botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, and statistics.
Excavation, the main field method of archaeology, provides access to buried sites or ruins. Knowledge of earth sciences helps in the most direct way to understand how old things are relative to how deeply they are buried or stratified in layers of soil. Radioactive isotopes, such as 14C, can be used to date organic materials such as carbon and bones. Stable isotopes such as nitrogen and strontium in bones also reveal environmental information, including diet and temperature. Soil chemistry can reveal human occupations through phosphate enrichment of the soil.
Knowledge of botany and seeds (macrofossils) can tell us what the climate and vegetation were like and whether people practiced agriculture. Tree rings give a yearly record of wetness or dryness and by aligning the rings from multiple trees can also be used to determine the age of wooden structures. Knowledge of animal osteology can tell us what animals were hunted and how they were killed and prepared as food. Human bones can tell us whether people were healthy and how and when they died.
This complicated data must be summarized using statistics, which help us to identify trends over time. The archaeological approach to studying human history combines scientific methods with the social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Archaeology is thus one of the most interdisciplinary fields of modern science today.