When I was nine years old, I was lucky enough to visit the remains of a massive Roman tomb along a roadside in northern Spain. Standing there, I was completely in awe of -the crumbling walls of that ancient stone mausoleum; I wondered who made it, why it was built, and how old it was. My parents told me about the Romans and how archaeologists studied such ruins. I decided then and there that I wanted to be an archaeologist. That happened and I have been one now for many years. I love what I do. It is a wonderful job, filled with travel, fieldwork, discovery, ideas and intellectual challenges, interesting friends and quirky colleagues, demanding and delightful students, and endless ways to learn more about the past.
I would like to share this fascinating field with you. This book is written primarily to introduce college students to the ideas and methods of today's archaeology, where research in the field and laboratory combine to uncover our past. It's intended to tell you about this intriguing subject that combines so many disciplines and skills in the study of earlier human behavior. I hope that this book may encourage some of you to consider archaeology as a career and to enter this exciting field of study. If nothing else, I hope it will help you to better understand the world around you and to appreciate the inherent allure of the past.
There are generally two sorts of introductory courses in archaeology at our universities. One kind offers an overview of what archaeologists have learned about the past. These are world prehistory classes. There are several good textbooks for these overview courses. Gary Feinman and I have written one such introduction to world prehistory called Images of the Past. That book provides a survey of the human past from our earliest ancestors and the first use of stone tools through the development of art and more complex societies in the Upper Paleolithic, the origins and spread of agriculture, and the rise of early states in the Old and New Worlds. It's about facts and knowledge.
A second kind of course offers a consideration of the methods and ideas, or principles, of archaeology-about how archaeologists look at the past and how they obtain the information they use to make sense of the past. Principles of Archaeology is written for this kind of course about theories and techniques.
There are also several other textbooks available on this aspect of archaeology, but I think most of them are too complicated. It's not easy to write a straightforward book about the theories and techniques of archaeology because of the great diversity and breadth of the subject. Archaeologists do all kinds of things, including research, teaching, public outreach, excavations, rescue work and cultural resource management, museum exhibitions, caring for monuments and parks, writing grant proposals-they even write books.
Archaeologists go in all sorts of directions to learn more about the past. The tools of modern archaeology are numerous and the areas of interest are myriad. That's one of the reasons it's so fascinating in the first place. However, there is so much involved in modern archaeology that one book simply cannot cover its entirety.
I have opted for a direct approach, focusing on fundamentals. I have included what I think is more important and more appealing, and I have incorporated the information that I think a first course in archaeology ought to cover. I have also described interesting sites and situations from both the New World and the Old that I feel serve as intriguing examples of methods and theories. At the same time, I have included some of the cutting-edge, breakthrough areas where science and technology are telling us new and exciting things about the past.
This is not a reference book. I have tried not to overload the text by covering all of archaeology, or hundreds of sites, or the full range of different methods or ideas that have appeared. For information on other aspects of archaeology, outside the scope of this text, I will point you toward suggested readings and websites. By having a text that covers the fundamentals, my hope is that you will be able to focus on what is essential. I will also try to point out why it's important to know certain things in the book. It's much easier to learn something if there is a reason for it!