Anthropology’s Backyard

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For some time a farmer had been shifting soil from one place of his farm to another. He claimed the soil used to be not precise enough for his crops for this reason wanted to substitute the pinnacle soil with manure he had organized elsewhere. Later on, the farm was bought to anybody else who decided to construct a residence on it as an alternative of farming. The new owner built a perimeter wall round it as well a drainage trench on one quit of the land. After some time, the landowner determined to rear pigs on the land. The house was transformed to a pigsty while animals’ disposals and other wastes have been discharged via the at the start constructed drainage. With time, the perimeter wall collapsed. Every activity that had taken place on the piece of land leaves a mark that can be identified years later. Successive marks each event leaves on the piece of land is called archeological sequence or record. A careful analysis of the soil layers and other organic and inorganic matter deposited successively over the years can reveal much about what existed on the piece of land and how long the activity took place.

Excavation is always done before analysis to get as much material for analysis as possible, which will inform us what action took place and in which order they occurred. The excavation process is carried out carefully so as not to distort the arrangement of evidence to be collected. Organic matter such as decomposing leaves and animal bones give more information about activities that ever took place on the piece of land. They can also be dated to give an approximation of when the events took place. The amount of evidence about an activity varies depending on various factors such as how long the event took place, the rate of decomposition of fossils and other human activities such as excavation that might have interfered with the deposited evidence. Similarly, the presence of inorganic matter such as rocks, basalt, limestone, and sandstone can give facts that could not be available if they were not present. Soil is also important in establishing past events associated with people or a given place. Soil supports all human activities on earth and bears imprints of occupation of land by creatures, plants, and animals. Archeologists use the nature of the soil and its composition to develop and understand the complexity of early life and how living organism has evolved to date.

The purpose of Artefacts and Archeological sites.

Soil can be used for farming, settlement and making various household goods and decorations. Once soil is used for whatever reason, it leaves marks, which later on can be used to say what took place years ago. Archeologists and other researchers of past human activities use soil to get vital information about the past. Archeologist analyzes soil layers and its content to know how people lived in the past, what they built on the soil, what animals they reared as well as plants they cultivated. It is common to find objects used in the past when going about normal activities such farming, excavation or building (Brughmans, 2014).

Different types of soils preserve artifacts differently. Thus, it is common to find more artifacts in one region as compared to another. For example, decomposition of organic matter such as leaves is slower in wet soils or areas with inadequate drainage systems as compared to regions, which have good drainage systems and have dry soils. Consequently, it is common to find dead plants and animals still in good condition for analysis in wet regions or swampy places and near water sources and large water bodies such as lakes. It easier therefore for a researcher to find more information about the past when he or she visits such places. Well-drained soils, which in many cases are dry, permit quick decomposition of organic matter. Inorganic matter such as metal objects and other ornaments used in the past is well preserved in areas with good drainage systems. Archeologists looking for fossils and other metallic objects used in the past should visit places with dry soil. Information from organic and inorganic matter is required to have a deeper understanding of the history of human beings as well as their activities. Similarly, acidic soils decompose both organic and inorganic matter faster. Pottery and other objects made of clay are more stable and withstand decomposition for longer periods. Information from one region should thus be supplemented by information from other sources. It is not enough to depend on information from one source when conducting an archeological examination of artifacts.

From the collected data it is evident the region was once used for settlement because of the walls. Archeological records indicate that human beings most of the time fenced where they lived for security parts. The evidence also shows the place was used for animal rearing. The pig droppings can be analyzed to establish their composition and determine if they are related to pigs. The fossils can be dated to establish how long they have been in existence.

Archeological Methods

Archeologist uses a broad range of methods to examine and find more information about archeological artifacts and sites. Most of the methods employed are borrowed from other disciplines. Apart from excavation, there are other means of studying artifacts and ancient sites. Non-invasive methods are a popular way of discovering more about archeological materials and places without physically destroying the place. Non-invasive techniques include the following; aerial photography where light and dark patterns in soil or crops may give leads to location or artifacts. Desktop survey where recognized areas area are checked on spots and memorials records or in Historic Environment Record. Ground-penetrating radar, sensitivity, and magnetometer surveys are the third noninvasive technique commonly used to check underground regions. Contour and physical survey are used to discover and plan earthworks and record standing buildings or trenches respectively.

Artifacts are dated to establish how old they have been in existence. Absolute and relative dating methods are standard methods used to date fossils. Absolute dating methods identify the precise age of an artifact through radiometric dating methods. The amount of radioactive material in an artifact is determined, which then gives the exact time a fossil, has been in existence. The rate of decay of radioactive material in fossils is in half-lives. Relative dating, on the other hand, dates fossils using comparative dating methods. The age of an artifact is compared with the date of other fossils whose age is known in the process an approximate date of the fossil is determined. Many archeologist use minerals called index fossils when establishing the age of a fossil by correlation. The two methods when used appropriately help determine the age of fossils.

Challenges facing archeologists

Archeologists face numerous challenges in their line of duty. The public does not understand the work of an archeologist thus do not offers them support to go about their duties with ease. The public in many occasions does not value the work of an archeologist and resort to discouraging them not to be involved in archeological activities. Some communities have myth and misconceptions about the past thus will discourage archeologist from excavating some locations to find more information about artifacts (Kintigh, et al., 2014). Lack of goodwill from the public makes an archeologist not work efficiently.

Secondly, many archeologist lack enough resources to fund their activities (Gardner & Lewis, 2015). It is not possible to carry out detailed studies of archeological artifacts and sites cheaply. Archeologist have to meet various costs incurred in the survey such as the cost of transport and pay laborers who help them do the excavation. Many archeologists do not have enough money to finance their activities entirely. At the same time, not many people and organizations are willing to fiancé their operations. Commercial organizations view archeological activities as having less public relations opportunities thus reluctant to finance such activities (Brughmans, 2013). If archeologists had enough capital to fund their activities, they would carry out very successful projects thus would benefit the public. Lack of enough money makes archeological not complete complex projects.

Thirdly, on many occasions, local communities have denied archeologists access to archeological sites due to various reasons (Brughmans, 2014). The local communities view archeologists as strangers with the intention to exploit their historic sites for their selfish gains thus do not offer them the required support. Excavation activities are not allowed in many localities without permission from relevant authorities. Getting authorization to conduct excavation activities in many countries is a complex process that can frustrate an archeologist (Smith, 2009). Many archeologists are seen as idlers or meddlers to local affairs of a community thus are not given permission with ease.

Public perception that archeological materials are garbage and not worth studying makes many communities resist archeologist who wishes to explore more about their regions (Smith, 2009). Many institutions are discouraged from investing in archeological labs that can be used for analysis of archaeological materials. It is feared in future the number of archeologist will be very low. Many students have been told archeology is not a real job thus should not pursue it. The discouragement limits the number of professionals in that field.

Commercialization of archeological materials threatens work of archeologists. Today, there are many collectors of archeological artifacts for sale (Brughmans, 2013). Museums buy objects at high prices making many people venture into the business. The institutions have turned a blind eye of illegal excavation by unprofessional archeologists. Unqualified people do not understand the value to artifacts and how artifacts need to be retrieved from the ground to avoid distortion (Gardner & Lewis, 2015). Looting of artifacts has substantially affected the original intention of excavation to find artifacts. It is not good to excavate artifacts purely for sale. If the condition if not checked, we may lose valuable information that can only be found from the scientific analysis of archaeological materials.


Brughmans, T. (2013). Thinking through networks: a review of formal network methods in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 20(4), 623-662.

Brughmans, T. (2014). The roots and shoots of archaeological network analysis: a citation analysis and review of the archaeological use of formal network methods. Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 29(1), 18-41.

Gardner, K., & Lewis, D. (2015). Anthropology and development: challenges for the twenty-first century. Pluto Press.

Kintigh, K. W., Altschul, J. H., Beaudry, M. C., Drennan, R. D., Kinzig, A. P., Kohler, T. A., … & Peregrine, P. (2014). Grand challenges for archaeology. American Antiquity, 79(1), 5-24.

Smith, S (2009). Motel of the Mysteries. The Society for Georgia Archeology. Retrieved from:

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