Activities of prehistoric people are reconstructed from various evidence, e.g. traces of weapons and tools they used, clothing, bones, earthworks, dwelling-places, etc.
Concepts or understanding of a people’s civilization at the time the artifacts were in use are formulated. E.g. hunting and pastoralism could be indicated by rock paintings of certain animals on cave walls.
Here are some common approaches used in archaeological study and analysis:
- Field Surveys: Archaeologists conduct field surveys to identify and document archaeological sites across a landscape. This involves systematic observation, mapping, and recording of surface artifacts, features, and structures.
- Excavation: Excavation is a key method in archaeology where layers of soil and sediment are carefully removed to uncover and recover archaeological remains. Excavations provide detailed information about the context, stratigraphy, and spatial relationships of artifacts, structures, and other archaeological features.
- Stratigraphy: Stratigraphy involves the analysis of the different layers (strata) within an archaeological site. It helps establish the chronological sequence of deposits and artifacts, providing insights into the relative dating of archaeological materials.
- Artifact Analysis: Artifacts recovered during excavations are studied and analyzed to understand their function, technology, origin, and cultural significance. This includes typological classification, cataloging, and comparative analysis with similar artifacts from other sites and time periods.
- Ecofact Analysis: Ecofacts, such as animal bones, plant remains, and pollen, are analyzed to reconstruct past environments, subsistence strategies, and human interactions with the natural world. This field of study is known as paleoethnobotany or zooarchaeology, depending on the material being analyzed.
- Archaeobotany: Archaeobotany focuses on the study of plant remains found at archaeological sites, including seeds, wood, charcoal, and phytoliths. Analysis of these botanical remains provides insights into past plant utilization, agricultural practices, diet, and environmental changes.
- Faunal Analysis: Faunal analysis involves the study of animal remains recovered from archaeological sites. This includes identifying animal species, analyzing bone modifications, and determining patterns of animal exploitation and human-animal relationships.
- Dating Methods: Archaeologists use various dating methods to establish the age of archaeological materials. These methods include radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), luminescence dating, and stratigraphic dating techniques.
- Geophysical Techniques: Non-invasive geophysical techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), magnetometry, and electrical resistivity surveys, are employed to detect and map buried archaeological features without excavation.
- Laboratory Analysis: Archaeological samples, including artifacts, ecofacts, and sediment, are subjected to laboratory analysis for further examination. This may involve scientific techniques such as microscopy, chemical analysis, isotopic analysis, and DNA analysis to gain additional insights into the materials and their contexts.
These are just some of the methods and approaches used in archaeological study and analysis. The specific techniques employed depend on the research objectives, the nature of the site, and the available resources and technologies.