Why is archaeology important?

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Archaeology is the study of human culture in historic as well as pre-historic times, by examining the material remains of early human settlements. These material remains may range from human or plant fossils to excavated artifacts or ruins of an old building. A broad study of human culture, archaeology is often regarded as a subset of anthropology.

Archaeology is an elaborated process, which starts with a detailed study and surveying of a particular area to ascertain sites, with possible human settlements in the past. The site is then excavated to recover material remains. After classification, this unearthed matter is analyzed and interpreted to reconstruct historical events. The archaeologist has to be very careful with the handling aspect of the 'unearthed matter'. Its documentation is of great importance, as the amount of information derived from it can be beneficial in terms of quality as well as quantity.

Why is Archaeology Important
Archaeology helps us to travel back into time to get valuable information about the human settlements which existed centuries ago. It throws light on the cultural history of various countries and answers various questions about the lifestyles of people who lived in that part of the world. It has also helped to ascertain the chronology of the pre-historic times.

In the Indian sub-continent, archaeological excavations unearthed the Indus Valley Civilization which flourished between 2600 - 1900 BC. The excavations, which started in 1920, opened the door to a human settlement which was far more evolved and scientifically advanced; characterized with well planned cities and well-developed network of trade routes.

Archaeological investigations also prove to be useful in understanding some mysterious subjects; such as Egyptian religion, and the cultural life of some communities which were invisible at a point of time. Most importantly it can answer the questions and fill the loopholes in history. It can give a brief idea about the changes which occurred over a period of time as well as the factors which were responsible for them.

The importance of archaeology has led to its categorization into various sub-divisions. While historical archaeology includes the study of cultures, the underwater archaeology is a study of the remains of any human activity, found in the bed of a water body. The latter has also helped in collecting information of the cities which were submerged under water. The recent development of 'salvage archaeology' and 'urban archaeology' has increased the quantity of data that can be possibly obtained from excavation sites.

Archaeology is dependent on other sciences and social sciences, like chemistry, geology, zoology etc in terms of data collection. When an object is recovered from excavation site an archaeologist can use chemistry to determine its age, while botany or zoology can provide information about the surroundings where it was found.

It's an important aid in reconstructing the prehistoric era, about which not much is known due to absence of written records. The material remains of this era included carvings on the walls of caves, artifacts like pottery, weapons used to hunt animals for food etc. Even after writing was developed, written records which were maintained were highly biased and largely based on assumptions. In such cases, archaeology helps to prove the authenticity of written records.

Archaeology can also contribute to rewriting history. When researchers found thousands of pieces of red slip pottery in the ancient city of Pompeii, the role of this civilization in trade and commerce of Mediterranean region was altered. Earlier, it was assumed that the people from Pompeii imported pottery from other settlements but this find proved that the people of Pompeii used local pottery too.
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