Archaeology and the early Indian past
We are now turning from text to archaeology. The research of the human experience by material remains archaeology is closely linked to history. Residual content varies from the ruins of vast palaces and temples to the small, discarded objects of daily human life such as broken pottery. They cover numerous items like buildings, artefacts, bones, plants, pollen, seals, coins, statues and inscriptions.
Historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists understand culture as some that include all patterns of peoples learned behaviour, the way of thinking and doing things that they learn from the social group of which they are part.
The archaeologist also used the word cultures in a more specific, technical sort of way connected with certain other important terms – Artifact, industry and assemblage.
An artefact is any portable object made or altered by human hands similar artefacts made of the same material found at a site comprise an industry. All the industries found at a site from its assemblage. If similar assemblage is found at several sites, these sites are said to belong to the same archaeological culture.
Material evidence is key to understanding human behaviour and experience. it is not enough to describe a stone tool or pot; The challenge is to get the stone tool or pot to tell their stories about the people who made and used them.
Items are routed in particular cultural ways, as the products of craft rituals and part of people’s lifestyles. The limited technological importance of culture in archaeology can also be generalised to the broader sense previously described.
The rhythms and patterns of time-based on material culture are generally slower and longer then those of historical events and archaeological cultures do not coincide with the rise and fall of dynasties or kingdoms.
Field archaeology is concerned with site discovery and excavation. Sites are locations where there can be known substance traces from previous human activities. In the plains, where mud and brick were used for the building of dwellings, archaeological sites which were long inhabited by people are often seen as mounds.
Mounds get formed over the centuries due to the rebuilding of structures and the accumulation of rubbish, windblown sand, and other sediments.
Sites are often discovered by sheer accident they can also be discovered by using clues in literature, by regional or village service or with the help of aerial photography. Sites buried underground can be detected by simple methods like inserting metal probes or rods in the ground.
There are also more sophisticated remote sensing techniques such as LANDSAT imagery. The scanner of LANDSAT satellites create digital images of the earth surface and can help identify features such as ancient river courses, canals, embankment, and buried settlements.
Archaeological evidence does not generally give a full description of ancient people’s material culture. Items found in the archaeological record normally consist of objects thrown out, lost, forgotten, concealed, left behind, as people pass. In addition, not all composite characteristics survive.
Archaeological reconstruction depends on the amount and kind of materials that is preserved, and this in turn depends on the objects themselves and on environmental factors, particularly soil and climate. Inorganic materials like stone, clay, and metal objects are most likely to survive in the archaeological record.
Stone age people must have used tools of wood and bone as well, but it is the stone tools that have survived in large numbers. Tropical regions, with heavy rains, acidic soil, warm climates and dense vegetation are not favourable for preservation these things have to be kept in mind when assessing archaeological evidence. Sites can get destroyed by the forces of nature, but they are more often destroyed by people when they clear land for farming or built houses factories, roads, and dams.
The site can be explored by carefully examining what lies on the surface or they can be excavated i.e., dug. Sites are not excavated just to see what they contain, but rather to uncover their stratigraphic sequence. The fundamental principle of stratigraphy is that the lower ones are older while various layers, strata or depths are found at a site. This idea would not apply if a site is disturbed, of course. It is very important to know the stratigraphical background of objects, i.e. the extent of which they have been identified, and which other items have been identified.
This day, an important trend with in-field archaeology is to try to understand sites within there larger landscape and context.
Archaeologists are increasingly moving towards non-distractive methods of investigation, such as remote sensing and regional surveys. Regional surveys are conducted by walking over a carefully selected section of an area, observing the distribution and nature of surface features and finds there are recorded and the surface find collected. A great deal of valuable archaeological information can be gathered in this way.