“The Significance of”
“Anthropologists and Archaeologists”
Anthropologists and archaeologists have influenced our lives in so many ways.
They have taken us back to our most humble beginnings. They have given us an
awareness of just how far we have come through the centuries. Archaeology is the
investigating of life by unearthing and interpreting the objects left behind by earlier
peoples and cultures, dating back to prehistoric times. Anthropology is the scientific
study of hominids, their physical features, development, and behavior. Anthropology is
broken into two parts: physical and sociocultural. Physical is concerned with human
evolution and biology and the study of primates. Sociocultural anthropology investigates
fieldwork of food production, social organizations and religious beliefs, clothing,
language and other aspects of various cultures from the beginnings of our evolution to
present day times. Ethnology is another facet of anthropology that fine tunes these
cultural studies. Archaeology tells us how these people lived by examining the objects
they used. Anthropology tells us how we have changed and evolved from their
advancements. By examining their bones, we can determine their brain size and posture.
Their tools found tell us their ability to adapt to the environment ( their intelligence
levels) and provide for their basic needs. Archaeologists have discovered many artifacts
in the150 years that the field has been active. Anthropology has enlightened us to how
are minds and bodies have changed since the mid 19th century. Both archaeologists and
anthropologists are working towards the goal of discovering how and when man began.
To understand their significance we must look into what we once thought we knew and
what we think we know today.
. In the 19th century,anthropology emerged as a distinct field of study. Lewis
Henry Morgan, who did major research on the Iroquois, was the founder of this discipline
in North America.. The European founding figure was British scholar Edward B. Taylor,
who perfected a theory of human evolution with special concentration on the origins of
religion. Major foundations for scientific archaeology developed. Mostly by Danish
archaeologists at the Northern Antiquities Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. From
excavations they discovered development of tools from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age.
In Olduval Gorge in East Africal, Louis S.B. Leakey and his wife, Mary D. N.
Leakey and their son Richard, discovered a series of fossils in the 1960’s.Their findings
revised the understanding of human biological evolution. These paleoanthropologists
focused their work on Homo habilis. In the 1970’s and 80’s, fossil remains dug upin east
Africa, have provided more evidence that in the period from one million to three million
years ago, the genus-Homo(true Human) existed with other man-ape forms known as
australopithecines. Both the genus-homo and the Australopithecus are descendants of an
Ethiopian fossil, Australopithecus afarensis. This ethiopian fossil is 3 million to3.7
million years old. This time frame keeps him in the Homo habilis genus, though he had
the legs and body for walking bipedally. Homo erectus developed the use of fire. The
oldest evidence of such was excaveted at a site in Beijing, China called Zhoukoudian.
Homo erectus improved on his tools, clothing and shelter. Cave dwelling developed
under his advancement. Homo Sapeiens (Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon), after learning
how to survive, began caring for their community and developed art and spiritual
The 19th century anthropologists found that kinship relationships form the
substance of social relations in all premodern societies. The most important social
groups are the clan, lineages, and other kinship organizations, in earlier non-industrial
societies. A common ancester and his descendents make up a kinship based society.
Religious fraternities and secret societies are examples of non-kinship based,
non-industrial societies. Food is the source of life. How food was obtained determined
the settlement of a community,i.e.prehistoric man(cro-magnan) was nomadic Homo
Sapiens because he was a hunter of meat and gathererer of fruits and vegetables. Social
structure advances as leaders were established to organize big game hunts. Evolution of
thinking matured as reasons for happenings were sought. Magic rituals and burials for
their leades evolved. As they developed tools and joined forces with other groups to hunt,
they started early societies. When people, finally, learned to domesticate plants and
animals they lived in one place all of their lives. Soon cities came about; Jericho, in the
middles east is one of the first discovered villages found, dating back to 8000 B.C. The
village of Catak Huyuk, in present day Turkey, dates from 7000-6300B,C. Some of their
tools, that have archeologically been excavated from this neolithic period show their
advancement in civilization. There mud brick houses show their love of art as their walls
were painted with various scenery. Some civilizations were united by religious
ceremonies, food bargains, and cultural features.
Some of the first civilizations were in the Middle East, Egypt, Northern India,
South East, Asia, China, Mexico, and Peru, which are now their own countries. Military
forts and fortifications were built to protect their villages. Temples where also built for
religious services and sacrifices. Social classes were also built putting the militants and
kings at the top of all the classes, and the slaves at the bottom of the social classes.
Social stratification , with a small military-religious elite and a large subservient
population of peasants and workers , was an inevitable consequence
As man’s thinking evolved into the hows and whys, spiritual development began
Religious beliefs emerged beginning with the worship of natural elements ie the moon,
the sun. Polytheistic gods evolved as the civilizations grew into larger communities and
improved their language base. Babylonian and Egyptian cultures had strong polytheistic
god structure. This continued into the Greek and Roman periods, till monotheism
evolved with Judeism and Chritianity. People have been killed for not accepting the
major deities of their respective periods. This unfortunately continued after the birth of
Christianity. Religious persecutions continue today in other countries.
The scientists of ancient times had to sacrifice a lot, sometimes even their lives,
to teach people the wonders they discovered. In 700 B.C. time frame, during Greek
civilization, people believed in the humors. They would bleed people if they were sick.
These scientists did eventually convince people that science could help them, and their
way of life. Scientists were not as skilled then as they are today, but when a discovery
was made it was considered modern information. If an invention was made or patented it
was modern technology, even if the discovery or invention was several years old. Our
civilization has advanced far beyond their capabilities with technologies greater than
their wildest dreams.
Belief systems of simple hunting-gathering bands can be complex with regard to
the supernatural world, the so-called forces of nature , and the behaviors of spirits and
gods. Few small-scale societies, however, seem to have few elaborate ideas about the
supernatural, the causes of things , and the hereafter. Basically all human groups, large
and small, have shamans-men or women thought to have direct contact with supernatural
beings and forces, from which they derive power to affect such problems as illness.
Explanations of cultural evolution have been elaborated extremely over the centuries.
The majority of early excavations were religious crusades of some sort of another, or
treasure hunting by and for elite rulers, pretty constantly right up until the second study of
Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most of the early digging was looking for gold and other
valuable items to sale or keep. Most were pirates and merchants looking for a quick way
to be rich. Some were successful while others were not so lucky and prosperous as the
others. The pirates and merchants even robbed graves of past kings and other rulers of
the past, just to make a quick fortune. They would also rob sacred temples and steal
sacred relics. Some were recovered in archeological digs and discoveries. The first
tentative step forward towards archaeology as a science took place during the
Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason. Europe in the 17th century and 18th
century it was great time of great growth in scientific and natural exploration. scientist,
poets, philosophers, and reached into classical antiquity, particular Greece, to wonder
how rationalism, what they considered the supreme human reason, ever came to be
realized. Human society everywhere must develop linearly, it was felt, beginning with
stone tools, growing with the invention of agriculture, and ending with the pinnacle of
human culture. It was a great step for the people of the 17th and 18th centuries to look
into ancient civilizations, to learn more about how humans came to evolve into what they
The one and only systematic archaeological investigation during the Enlight-
enment project was Thomas Jefferson’s excavations in Virginia in 1784; most
antiquarians were content to theorize. The Enlightenment ended with the American and
French Revolutions, but the whole point of the era was that of the ‘Great Chain’ of
human cultural evolution--was to lead men (rich European men) to investigate the globe
1. Farah, Mounir A. and Karls, Andrea Berens. World History, The Human Experience
Glenco McGraw-Hill Publishing, New York, New York, copyright 1997.
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