Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers, and Community Groups
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In Archeological excavation retrieval of intact artifacts or remains is quite a challenge.
Archeology is the study of remains of human or animal or remains of human culture. It is very important in putting together the events of the past. It has helped to authenticate both written history and unwritten history. In itself, archeology has been central in discovery of history of human culture in the pre-literacy period. Man has been able to discover the hidden information that could not have come to surface were it not for the art of archeology(John Jameson J. E., 2012). Archeologies involve excavation, dating of remains, reassembling of found remains to understand the context of their use in human history. Today several theories have been put forward to explain about the origin of man. All these versions have been depending on the archeological studies to justify itself. The most surprising is that archeology has helped strengthen some beliefs more than others(Insoll, 2007).
No one has been able to refute biblical stories on the basis of archeological studies. Through archeology remotely written scrolls that prove the historical facts outlined in the bible. It has therefore enhanced the authenticity of the claims. There are numerous features that are put together to be able to get accurate morphology of the body remains found in an archeological site. The main concern of archeologist is the morphological features and changes that take place. All the skeletons and artifacts recovered from an archeological site are recorded in a systematic manner which makes access to them easier(John Jameson, 2007). In recoding this information, the name of the site, the identifier of the skeleton, an access number, and type of bone found, the segments of the skeleton found, completeness score and number of fragments. The level of surface preservation is also vital. The bone can also indicate different pathologies that the person suffered while alive. There are different cultural practices when it comes to disposal of dead bodies some bury while others cremate partially before burial while some groups cremate fully. All these practices have an effect on the remains found at an archeological site(Hanne Andersen, 2013).
Human history is quite important in understanding the modern day pattern of genetics and human settlement, ideological evolution and culture. Archeologists have to apply a lot of skills to ensure that they are accurate in their reconstruction, dating and inference. When the word archeology is mention many only thinks of a group of people who are only interested in digging up graves and ruins but it goes beyond the excavation(John Jameson, 2007).
The items that were used in the remote culture do not necessarily resemble the modern day tools and items. It takes a lot of study and brainstorming to find the purpose of a tool found at a site. The erosions and continuous formation of soil has made discovery of an archeological site quite difficult(Hanne Andersen, 2013). In fact most archeological site that has lavished our modern Museums was discovered by accidents. Very few had an intentional discovery. The floods and sedimentation and soil formation over years had been responsible for deeper and deeper burial of artifacts and remains of animals and human ancestry(Nicholas, 2010). This conceals the site completely leaving no clue on the surface(Nicholas, 2010).
As soils, rocks and materials sediments on the remains they act stronger forces on the remains. Other forces of nature that acts on the remains are exposed while at surface area also leaves effects of the remains. Unfortunately, these forces can destroy the artifacts and remain by modifying the structures and the morphology. Though the archeologists have used shapes of the modified skulls excavated from different sites to reconstruct the living morphology of the humans, it may be possible that the shapes discovered are not original and might have beendeformed by the pressure from the overlying soil and rocks(Stottman, 2010). Pieces of artifact of remote settlement are reassembled together to find out how the object looked but accuracy is still questionable. Various archeological objects discovered from various sites are rarely found intact.
The cause of the damage is varied and the cause of the archeological material are also numerous. The forces responsible for the disintegration of these materials include physical forces such as damage by stray wild animals, domestic animals, sunlight, rainfall, wind and cyclones. Long exposure to these environmental forces can further damage the materials hence losing evidence of cultural heritage. Depending on the culture of a particular people, human remain were others were disposed through different methods. Thus somebody remains were buried while others thrown in the remote areas. This exposed the bodies to wild animals that tear apart the body part leaving little clue that may be less helpful in reconstructing the body morphology(Peter Bleed, 2013). The practice of dead body cremation has been practiced for quite a long time. Though the partly charred bones found in such archeological sites helps deduce the cultural practice, it conceals the evidence of what type of people lived in the archeological site. Using carbon dating may also be altered as the burning may reduce o the accuracy of the dating(Insoll, 2007).
Time is also an important factor in the level of preservation of archeological material. Most of the remains of the remote human culture were not made of durable material. Even those that were made of metal were made of unrefined iron. When unrefined iron is exposed to earth for long it degrades and absorbed into the earth. The other material made from organic substances suchas wood, hides and skins easily undergo decay over time. In order to get information of the archeologist at the archeological on such material, a lot of care is required on the part the archeologist. They have to trace the impression by decayed material then infer from the impression what the artifact might have been. In doing an inference from an impression, it is obvious that one cannot be certain of its accuracy.
In consideration to human history, man has used numerous methods to preserve the dead bodies. The civilization of people who once lived in a particular location also play a role in determining the intactness of an artifact or body remains. Burial boxes and built tombs offer some resistance to the force of the earth pressure exerted on the remains hence reduced destruction of the remains. This makes studies easy and also determines the durability of the remains in the Museums where they are kept(John Jameson, 2007). Greater role is expected of the authorities that protect the archeological heritage. They should be guided by principles that that are thoroughly researched and successfully used elsewhere. It should be remembered that degradation continues despite excavation and transfer of the artifacts and remains to the museums(Nicholas, 2010).
In the General Conference of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization, it was noted that the preservation of the archeological sites, monuments, artifacts and remains depend on the affection that people has for them. The handlers of the artifacts of the sites and remains must develop passion to prevent further disintegration. The wish of the member countries to develop science was found to have great role. The contemplation to do further study in works of the past strengthens the understanding and cooperation between countries to protect archeological heritage. This further strengthens the fulfillment of the social mission(John Jameson J. E., 2012).
We will explore the data from a website on archeological human remains and consider each of the bone found in the site. The percentage of completeness is likely to nullify or prove the hypothesis on the subject.The data set is for human remains that were recovered from sixteen different archeological sites in Northumberland and Durham. The human remains are kept at the Great North Museum in Newcastle, Wintergardens and Sunderland in Sunderland and Roman fort. The rest of the skeletal material was taken to a laboratory for testing in Newcastle(Nicholas, 2010).
From the database of this skeletal material an analysis was done to determine the fragmentation and completeness of the material remains.
Below is a graph on the distribution of the remains according to the site where they were collected.
. The number of skeletal material collected per Acheological site
The skeletal materials were collected from various archeological sites and each site had a god number of material collected.
To do an assessment on the surface preservation is quite subjective. The evaluation of the surface is a good determinant of the age of the organism at time of death. It is also important in assessing the pathologies, sex and the age at death. The preservation is partly a subject of age. The ossified bone are well preserved over many years while poorly ossified degrade quite fast with time. The size of the bone is a subject of sex of the person(John Jameson S. B., 2007). The taphonomic processes such as excavation, burial environment, curation has an impact on the condition of the bone and the bulk of skeleton that will be recovered from a site. Excellent preservation means that there is no surface erosion while poor preservation shows poor preservation. The level of preservation along with the completeness has an effect on getting information from the material.
The excavated remains preservation per site of discovery in the graph in fig 2
Fig. 2 Distribution of preservation levels of the skeletons
Key to figure 2 0= Exellent, 1= Very Good, 2 = Good, 3 = Fair, 4 = Poor ,5 = Extremely poor ,6 = Burned bone
Where cremated remains were examined they were described by their appearance
L= Longitudinally Split, T= Longitudinal and Transverse Checking
C= Cracking, W= Warping (Michelle Gamble, 2012)
The level of completeness of the human skeletal material collected were the compared based on the percentage of the complete whole of the remains and the following were the results. Level f preservation varied from one remains to another and also from one archeological site to another. Not all the bones were fully preserved neither were they all poorly preserved. At least each percentage of preservation were represented (see key for reference).
Table. 1 Frequency for completeness of different %
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 22 2.4 2.4 2.4
? 1 .1 .1 2.5
1 307 32.9 32.9 35.3
2 167 17.9 17.9 53.2
3 346 37.0 37.0 90.3
4 91 9.7 9.7 100.0
Total 934 100.0 100.0 ?= Undefined
1 = <25%
2 = 25-75%
3 = >75%
4 = 100%
From the table it was noted that only 9.7% of the remains were 100% complete. This meant that more than 90 were fragmented, burned or decayed. This proves how much of the material were deformed hence identification had to be done through inference. The deformation might have been due to the pressure of the underlying soil or from physical forces. This data set also composed of the charged and burned body remains (Peter Bleed, 2013). These might have had an effect on the percentage but this is less significant as not most of the remote cultures cremated the dead bodies.The bar graph comparing the level of completeness is as in fig 3below.
Key Y axis
1 = <25%
2 = 25-75%
3 = >75%
4 = 100%(Michelle Gamble, 2012)
The percentage completeness was in different frequency. The collected remains had different level of completeness of the fragments. Each level of completeness was represented showing that the fragmentation is significant in all remains what varies is the degree.
Fragmentation also has greater effect on the artifacts. The fragment increases work in analysis of the archeological remains. The archeologist has to identify part of the fragment from numerous fragments then use then to reassemble the bone or the artifact. This can be quite challenging especially when parts of the same bone to be reassembled have decayed completely and is not traceable any longer(Stottman, 2010). This may be quite difficult the probability of reassembling unlike fragments is high. The connecting of wrong fragment has an effect on the morphology hence losing the right shape of the organism or objects. A wrong conclusion is made hence conceal the culture and body morphology of the organism. The fragments were recorded some in terms of weigh and some in terms of numbers.
Fig 4. No and weight Fragments collected at the sites
The figures in the Y axis without units are the number of fragment while hose with units are weight of the fragments. The data set was not recorded in uniform units but is helpful for the comparison(Michelle Gamble, 2012).
The graph portrays the occurrence of a number of fragments and the weight of each fragment and the number collected from the sixteenarcheological sites.
Some of the bones were segmented. Some only part of the segments were found at the site
Figure 5. Table of the Bone and the segment recovered
The table above is a plot of the bones and the corresponding type of segment collected from the archeological site.
Most of the human skeletons collected from the sixteen sites have proved over 90% of fragmentation and fragmentation. This trend is similar in other skeletal material from archeological site, the same phenomenon happens with the animals remains, material artifacts of remote human culture. Therefore fragmentation is a great setback to the archeologist in getting right information for scientific and historical inference. Most of forces and conditions responsible for this are not preventable but human error during excavation may be avoided. With careful marking and excavation, the relevant information retrievable from material remains can be increased. Marking and protecting of identified archeological site is necessary.
Hanne Andersen, D. D. (2013). New Challenges to Philosophy of Science. New York: Springer.
Insoll, T. (2007). The Archaeology of Identities: A Reader. New York: Routledge.
John Jameson, J. E. (2012). Training and Practice for Modern Day Archaeologists. New York: Springer.
John Jameson, S. B. (2007). Past Meets Present: Archaeologists Partnering with Museum Curators, Teachers, and Community Groups. New York: Springer.
Michelle Gamble, C. F. (2012). Osteological Analysis of Early Bronze Age human skeletal remains in Tyne and Wear Museums. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from Acheology Data Service: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/osteol_2013/downloads.cfm
Nicholas, G. P. (2010). Being and Becoming Indigenous Archaeologists. Chicago: Left Coast Press.
Peter Bleed, D. D. (2013). Custer, Cody, and Grand Duke Alexis: Historical Archaeology of the Royal Buffalo Hunt. New York: University of Oklahoma Press.
Stottman, M. J. (2010). Archaeologists as Activists: Can Archaeologists Change the World? Alibama: University of Alabama Press.