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Ashlyn Gunn
Haupin
Purple
5 December, 2011
Archaeologists and Ancient Cultures
Archaeology is the study of ancient artifacts and ancient cultures that often includes
excavations or digs. The four components of a culture are government, economy, society, and
religion. Through the work of archaeologists, much has been learned about the cultures of
ancient peoples. If an archaeologist were to dig up a part of each component, it would help to
form ancient societies.
For example, utilizing the component of government, an archaeologist would look for
leadership, kings, democracy, etc. At Piedras Negras, Guatemala in the 1960s, a scholar named
Tatiana Proskouriakoff made a number of remarkable discoveries. One of these was properly
determining the inscriptions of the ancient Mayans showing that the people recorded historical
events. (Document D, Part 1; Entrance to the Underworld) Another example of ancient culture
dug up by archaeologists is demonstration of leadership. In a building archaeologists call J-6, a
magnificently carved throne was found. (Document D, Part 1; Entrance to the Underworld)
These two examples are linked because when you have a king it is a type of government called a
monarchy. Usually when historical events are recorded, a leader or ruler has instructed them to
do so. Great learning of the cultures of ancient peoples can come from recorded events.
As for economy, an archaeologist would search for traces of crops, jobs, livestock,
building, currency, etc. An example of economy found would be animal dung in household
garbage providing evidence that atalhyk was dependent on sheep and goats and not on cattle
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as were thought. (Document B, Part 2; Lost Wonders) If archaeologist had not excavated this
area, it would never be known the type of livestock rose. Also, when the archaeologists were
digging they found tightly packed stone in small brick forms resembling homes. (Document A,
Part 2; Probing the Mound) In the more luxurious or more lavish looking homes, the diggers
found privates baths. (Document C, end; Peeping at Pompeiis Plumbing) If the homes had
never been excavated, archaeologists today would not have known that atalhyk depended on
sheep and goats. They also would not have known that higher classes had private baths and
indoor plumbing.
Another component of culture is society. When searching for society in ancient times
archaeologists look for art, the roles of men and women, games/sports, higher/lower classes of
people, etc. At atalhyk in building 23 archaeologists found wall paintings that depicted
women cooking at an oven. (Document A, Part 2; Probing the Mound) A second example
would be the models of ball courts dug up around ancient Mayan areas showing that the Mayans
enjoyed watching sports. (Document D, Part 2; Play Ball!) These two paintings show that the
Mayans were interested in art and sports. It also meant that they expected women to work in the
kitchen.
In the last component of culture, religion, archaeologists would need to look for
symbolism, gods, religious leaders, burial, worship, sacred buildings statues with the remains of
lavish gifts, etc. For example many of the buildings James Mellaart excavated were shrines
where priests worshiped. He knew this by the images scrawled on the wall. (Document A, Part 1;
Changing Methods Theories) Also, In Petra, archaeologists found steps cut from rock that led
to tombs inside the city. (Document B, Middle; Ingenuity to the Rescue) Lastly, excavators
found a large sinkhole that was marked a sacred place because the Mayans considered them
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entrances to the underworld. (Document D, Part 1; Entrance to the Underworld) These finds
show that these ancient cultures believed in a god(s), punishment for sins, and burring their dead.
The study of ancient artifacts and ancient cultures that often includes excavations or digs
is archaeology. The four main components of culture are government, economy, society, and
religion. Through the work of archaeologists, much has been learned about the cultures of
ancient peoples. One main work of archaeologists is to excavate areas that were thought to be
sites of ancient cities. While digging up these cities, archaeologists find parts of components of
culture. For instance a throne shows that the people believed in a king which is a part of
government. More examples are pipes and animal bones showing that there was indoor plumbing
and livestock which are parts of economy. In addition paint that depicted images of early life
showed that they were interested in art, which is a part of society. Lastly, for religion, a shrine
was found. If archaeologists were digging in the area of ancient peoples and found parts of each
component of culture, then they could teach others about the cultures of those ancient peoples.
There is a lot to learn from archaeologists, and ancient peoples.