14/05/18: Unit 9 – Unearthing the Past

Welcome to CLECV Plus 3’s first entry!

I don’t know how attracted -if ever- you were to archaeology, but as I was growing up in those days when no one would ever dream of things such as electronic devices, personal computers, let alone the Internet, reading about the origins of mankind, past civilizations, and ancient cultures was something I was very interested in. Just consider how the Inca civilization was built and how it expanded so much in what later became the Tahuantinsuyo, to later be defeated by the Spanish conquerors.

In regard to the topic, here I found some interesting information about archaeology and how our present can be understood by studying the past.

Past Imperfect


Who were the first people to arrive in North America more than 12,000 years ago? Did these intrepid explorers originate in Siberia and cross the frozen straits of Beringia? Or were they mariners who bravely struck out into the Pacific, heading east into the blue unknown? Who were the people to first call North America home?

For more than a century, archaeologists have tried to solve this mystery using mainly one kind of evidence: the material objects the first settlers left behind, buried in the dirt. In recent years, however, an important new line of evidence has emerged: the genetic lineages of humans, which allow us to track the migratory histories of people as they’ve moved around the globe. It’s important to consider, however, what exactly each of these kinds of data—material and genetic—can and cannot tell us about our ancestors and ourselves.

As archaeologists, we are both blessed and cursed with the material culture that humans create. I say “blessed” because it is the material aspects of culture that allow us to interpret human behaviors and actions in the past; I say “cursed” because historical objects do not easily reveal the real cultures behind them. What this means, then, is that archaeologists reconstruct cultures using limited evidence. You might have heard about the “Ancestral Pueblo,” “Hopewell,” or “Mississippian” peoples. But these cultures did not really exist. The “Ancestral Puebloans”—a diverse range of people who lived in pueblo villages in the U.S. Southwest between 600 and 1,200 years ago—never called themselves that or considered themselves a unified culture. Rather, archaeologists invented the concept of “Ancestral Pueblo” to describe a certain cultural moment in Southwestern history, based almost exclusively on the materials these people left behind. It’s very hard to deeply understand past people based on material objects alone.

On the other hand, these objects can tell us an awful lot. Typically, material culture found in archaeological sites is comprised of durable objects such as stone and pottery, because these materials tend to be better preserved over time than bones, wood, fibers, and other organic materials. In special circumstances, such as in extremely dry or moist conditions, we get intriguing glimpses of what is missing in the vast majority of archaeological sites. Dry caves in the American Southwest show us the rich variety of materials used by early people. These include animal skins that were made into robes, clothing, and children’s toys; wooden objects crafted into arrow shafts, digging sticks, and split-twig figurines; feathers attached to arrows; plant fibers turned into baskets and sandals; and much more.

As we study people who lived in the past, we use these sorts of materials to help us better understand how ideas and goods were shared between different groups of people. Artifacts can also reveal certain things about how people behaved and what they believed. Such materials are part of an imperfect approach to understanding past cultures, to be sure, but material remains bring us valuable insights into the early cultures of North America that other lines of evidence, such as genetics, simply cannot. What I mean by this is that genetics can help us determine ancestral relationships between individuals who contributed to the cultures of North America, but they do not tell us anything about the actual cultures of those early people.

Genetics can offer scientific answers to questions about biological relationships, but it cannot provide deep insight into people’s cultural lives. For that we need archaeology.


Read the What Do You Think Section on page 160 of your textbooks and answer the questions in a short paragraph, so you can share your ideas in relation to the topic. If you are new to this activity, you should know that -though optional- commenting on the blog will add points to your Tasks (up to five points).

Puntuación: 3.67 / Votos: 3


  1. César Rivadeneira escribió:

    Speaking Personally, this is for me a very appealing topic, due to the mysteries, it hides that mainly make us feel wondered about. Plus, it’s intriguing that one day in the distant future we would find out the truth regarding our ancestral civilizations, and with who they had gotten in touch with. So let’s answers the following questions:
    1. First of all, it lacks of complexity that the materials or objects display in the reconstruction of cultures using little evidence to support their real usage, that could be one of the most challenging aspects in “Architecture”.
    2. Indeed, I would enjoy performing that activity, due that it could give me so much excitement into know what is under the dirt, somehow ignited for being a witness of those antiques,
    3. As far as I’m concerned, it’s rewarding to know that something that is yours, could be preserved, and serve as a source of mineral resources, perhaps sometimes in my room, they could deduce my belongings (such perfumes, frames (pics). After all, they also would consider organization, and my desires, and moods.
    That’s everything, mates!- Bests.

    1. Idiomas Virtual Autor escribió:

      Indeed, César. Understanding and reconstructing the past is beyond finding artifacts and traces of civilizations. Archaeology is really challenging! It would be so exciting to assist on a dig, trying to figure out as much as possible from whatever finding.

      Thanks for collaborating!


  2. Teresa escribió:

    I believe that a challenge for archeology will be to interpret the knowledge that is virtualized since the use of technology will help in the future however, a lot of anonymous information will surely be lost.

    The archaeological findings that emerge from an excavation must be interesting because they demonstrate the way of living at a particular moment in history, without a doubt it would be fascinating.

    If in 500 years they discovered my house they would discover that we live three people who eat mostly fruits and vegetables and they probably would not understand why we have so many electronic equipment in a small space.

    1. Idiomas Virtual Autor escribió:

      Yes, Teresa. It would be so exciting to participate in the discovery of anything that would lead to understanding the past. About the third answer, I also think that people in the future would wonder why he had so many appliances for different activities, right?

      Thanks for commenting!



    What do you think is challenging about trying to understand the past through archaeology?
    Yes, I think is very difficult to understand the past through archaeology, because you can find differents theories. You can find things that not exist nowdays, and you can imagine differents meanings about that.
    Would you enjoy assisting on an archaeological dig? Why, or why not?
    Yes, I would, because I think I could find interesting things about the past and I would feel very exciting to do that.
    Imagine if, 500 years from now, a team of archaeologists discovered your home. What might they deduce about you, your behavior, and your way of life?
    I think they could deduce that I used to be a lawyer, because they could find a lot of books about this career. They could find a lot of photographies about my life, so they can deduce that I was married with childs and I used to travel t differents places. Also, they could find the computer and the electronics devices and if they could have access to those, they could find a lot of information about me, like where I used to work, or who were my family and my social environment, and they could deduce my lifestyle.

    1. Idiomas Virtual Autor escribió:

      Right, Katherine. Archaeology is not sufficient to understand the past, but it certainly does a lot. Understanding where we come from, helps us understand why we are here and what we owe our advancement to.

      Thanks for participating!



    Archeology is a very interesting discipline that allows us to understand our past, I wanted to study this career, but a lot of money was needed, I only chose anthropology. Well, I’ll answer the questions on page 160:

    1. Of course, but as technology is advancing, there are methods that facilitate the discoveries of our past, before it was more difficult. Now, for example, the faces of our ancestors can be reconstructed.
    2. Yes, I like discoveries, it must be exciting to find a mummy or pottery from the past.
    3. They would discover the raising of pets, dogs, guinea pigs. It is one of my mom’s hobbies. with respect to me, they would say that I have been a person who traveled constantly. my house is very big, but only my mom lives. They would say that in those times there was still transhumance.

    1. Idiomas Virtual Autor escribió:

      You are right, Pilar.
      Thanks to technology and other sources, archaeology counts with their aid to reconstruct the lives and culture of past civilizations. Being part of the discovery of such elements of our past must be fascinating…!

      Thanks for collaborating!


  5. Milagros Diez Canseco Castro escribió:

    sus Tareas (hasta cinco puntos).
    1. What do you think is challenging about trying to understand the past through archaeology?
    Challenges are many – especially if there is often no endorsement of history. I searched for information on Internet and found an interesting blog in which many challenges are exposed; there are so many according experts of course, I will leave the link in which You can delve more precisely about theme , very differents point of view from many archeobloggers

    2. Would you enjoy assisting on an archeological dig?
    It would be great to participate in an archaeological dig; much interest and a supreme care to know what to find and how to extract information from the earth; I’ve seen it in documentaries, in movies but I do not think the emotion is the same when one is part of the project.
    Maybe in the near future or in my next life  I will get to fulfill that longing.
    I love archeology is something that surpasses me and I am the one who are curious by nature.
    Knowing who and how, where it existed, that brings with it every rock or fossil extract that I can get from an excavation, full of information, many gaps that still exist today.

    3. Imagine if, 500 years from now, a team of archaeologists discovered your home. What might they deduce about you, your behavior, and your way of life?
    It is very interesting the question about it. I think that today would be much to deduce because we are all printed in a digital world and remember …. data unlike man survives; thus they would easily are gonna take information in the way “for example how a used to live”.
    The eras and customs anything that had not happened many years before as they are some mysteries or discoveries that are being made today thanks to technology. Many tracks did not leave us some ancestors in the absence of writing, only a few archaeological remains which have been analyzed and interpreted from many points of view.

    1. Idiomas Virtual Autor escribió:

      Thanks, Milagros.
      Participating and unveiling the past would be so exciting. I haven’t been to an archaeological dig, but just seeing objects, mommies, artifacts, and constructions from a distant time, makes you realize how the past could have been like.

      Great participation!


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