History Of World Through Artifacts History Essay

Human beings have flourished on Earth for at least 2.5 million years. The study of History in its broader sense is a record of humanity and its accomplishments from its earliest origins to modern times. This record of human achievements has reached us in many forms, as written documents, as oral traditions passed down from generation to generation, and in the archaelogicxal record-sites, artifacts, food remains and other surviving evidence of ancient human behavior. The earliest written records go back about 5,000 years in the Near East, in Mesopotamia, and the Nile Valley. Elsewhere, written history begins much later: in Greece, about 35,000 years ago, in China, about 2,000 years ago, and in many other parts of the world, after the 15th century C.E. with the arrival of western explorers and missionaries. Oral histories have an even shorter compass, extending back only a few generations or centuries at the most.

History, which remains primarily though not exclusively the study of written documents covers only a tiny fraction of the human past. Prehistory, the span of human existence before the advent of written records, encompasses the remainder of the past 2.5 million years. Prehistorians, students of the prehistoric past, rely mainly on archaeological evidence to study the origins of humanity, the peopling of the world by humans and the beginnings of agriculture and urban civilization.

Archaeology is the study of the human past based on the material remains of human behavior. These remains come down to us in many forms. They survive as archaeological sites, ranging from the mighty pyramids of Giza built by ancient Egyptian pharaohs to insignificant scatters of some tools and animal bones abandoned by very early humans in east Africa. Then there are caves and rock shelters adorned with ancient paintings and engravings, and human burials that can provide vital information, not only on biological makeup but also on ancient diet and disease and social rankings. So in this write up I am going to explain how the things were explored by studying the texts and the artifacts. I have mentioned few things which have been explored by applying these concepts.


ARCHAELOGY AS ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY:- In contrast to classicists and historians, prehistoric archaeologists deal with an enormous time scale of human biological and cultural eveloution that extends back at least 2.5 million years. Prehistoric archaelofy is the primary source of information on 99 percent of human history. Prehistoric archaeologists investigate how early human societies all over the world came into being, how they differed from one another, and in particular, how they changed through time.

No one could possibly become an expert in all periods of human prehistory. Some specialists deal with anthropologists concerned with human biological eveloution. Others are experts on stone toolmaking, the early peopling of the New and Old Worlds, or on many other topics, such as the origins of agriculture in the Near East. All of this specialists expertise means that archaeologists, whatever time period they are working on, draw on scientists from many other disciplines-botanists, geologists, physicists, zoologists.

Prehistory archaeologists consider themselves a special type of anthropologists. Anthropologists study humanity in the widest possible sense, and archaeological anthropologists study human societies of the past that are no longer in existence. Their ultimate research objectives are the same as those of anthropologists studying living societies. Instead of using informants, however, they use the material remains of long vanished societies to reach the same general goals. Prehistorians also share many objectives with historians, but work with artifacts and food remains rather than documents. In some parts of the world, such as tropical Africa, for example, prehistoric archaeology is the primary way of writing history, since oral traditions extend back only a few centuries, and in many places written records appear no earlier than the 19th century C.E.

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CULTURE AND CONTEXT:- Human culture are made up of many different parts such as language, technaology, religious beliefs, ways of obtaining food, and so on. These elements interact with one another to form complex and ever changing cultural systems, systems that adjust to long and short term environmental change.

Archaelogists work with the tangible remains of ancient cultural systems, typically such as durable artifacts as stone tools or clay pot fragments. Such finds are a patterned reflection of the culture that created them. Archaelogists spend much time studying the linkages between past cultures and their archaeological remains. They do so within precise contexts of time and space.



HISTORICAL RECORDS AND OBJECTS OF KNOWN AGE:- Historical documents can sometimes be used to date the events, such as the death of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or the Spanish conquest of mexico in 1519-21 CE. Clay tablet records in Mesopotamia and ancient Egyptian papyri provide dated going back to about 3000 B.C.E. The early near eastern civilations traded many of their wares, such as pottery or coins with precise dates over long distances. These objects can be used to date sites.

Dendrochronology:- Dendrochronology the science of tree ring dating was developed by AE Douglas in the southwestern United States as a way of dating climatic changes. It is based on the facts that certain tree species display annual growth rings that fluctuate in thickness from year living and ancient trees can be matched with them. Archaeological tree-ring chronologies extend back to 322 B.C.E. in the American Southwest and to as early as 9000 B.C.E. in Ireland and Germany providing an accurate chronology.

RADIOCARBON:- Radiocarbon dating provides dates for archaeological sites dating from about 1500 C.E. to at least 40,000 years ago, and sometimes earlier. This dating is based on the facts that carbon isotope carbon-14 enetrs the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere with carbon-12, ordinary carbon. Living vegetarian builds up its own organic matter by photosynthesis and by using atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thus the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in living vegetarian and the animals that eat is the same as that in the atmosphere.

POTASSIUM-ARGON DATING:- Potassium one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust is present in nearly every mineral. In its natural form it contains a small proportion of radioactive 40K atoms. For every 100 40K atoms that decay 11 percent become 40Ar, an inactive gas that escapes from its parent material by diffusion when lava and other molten rocks are formed. By using a spectrometer, it is possible to measure the concentration of 40 Ar that has spectrometer, it is possible to measure the concerntration of 40Ar that has accumulated since the rock formed. Many early sites like KOOBI FOR A and OLDUVAI GROGE in the east Africa were formed during periods of intense volcanic activity.

FINDING AND DIGGING UP PAST:- The finding and excavating of archaeological sites is a meticlulous process of uncovering and recording the finite archives that make up the archaeological record. The sites large and small that make up this record are finite resources. Once destroyed and the context of their artifact contents disturbed, they are gone forever.

Although the destruction wrought br early archaeologists and treasure hunters was devastating, that of modern industrial development, deep plowing, professional looters and amateur pothunters has been far worse. In some parts of north America, experts estimate that less than 5 percent of the archaeological record of prehistoric times remains intact.

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FINDING ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES:- Many archaeological sites come to light by accident during highway or dam construction, through industrial activity and mining, or as a result of natural phenomena such as wind erosion. For example, the famous early human sites at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, East Africa, were exposed in the walls of the gorge as a result of an ancient earthquake that cut a giant fissure through the surrounding plains. Well designed archaeological field surveys provide vital information on ancient settlement patterns and site distributions.

Increasingly, archaeologists are relying on remote sensing techniques, such as aerial photography, settelite imaginary or side scan radar. These allow them to identify likely areas even to spot sites without ever going into the field. The latest approach involves the use of Geographic Information Systems. The combination of satellite imaginary with myriad environmental, climateic and other data provides a backdrop for interpreting distributions of archaeological sites. For instance, in Arkansas archaeologists have been able to study the locations of river valley farming villages and establish that thay were founded close to easy routes to the uplands where deer could be hunted in winter.

EXCAVATION: The process of excavation begins with a formal research design for no investigation is undertaken without specific hypotheses to be tested, questions to be asked. Small scale excavation may involve small test pits or vertical trenches designed to establish the stratigraphy of a site and the sequence of occupation. Large scale excavations often require exposing considerable horizontal areas perhaps several farnmers huts, the foundations of a city wall, perhaps even an entire market precinct or a set of workers cottages.

The same principles of excavation apply to all archaeological sites, however simple or complex, precise recording and testing of the hypotheses before a spade is placed in the groung, analysis of the sequence of events that occurred at the site, and lastly, reconstruction of how the site was formed. For example many Near Eastern cities were occupied over thousands of years, gradually accumulating a large mound of occupation debris, known to archaeologists as a tell. Excavating such a city would involve not only recording the sequence of occupation, but the many factors that led to the buildup of the mound everything from major fires that swept through closely packed buildings to a complex sequence of rebuilding events on a temple.

The process of excavation ends with the analysis of the finds from the dig and their publication as a permenant record of the research. Without such publication the site is effectively destroyed. The archaeologists report is a vital, and unique, archive of the prehistoric past.

ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION:- For every month of excavation there is at least six months laboratory analysis- a long process of classifying, analyzing and interpreting the finds from the dig. Such finds come in many forms. Stone tools, clay potsherds and other artifacts tell us much about the technology of our forebears. Broken animal bones, seeds, shells, and other food remains, even dessicated human feces, are a mine of information on ancient subsistence, and sometimes diet. All of these finds are combined to produce a reconsruction of human behavior at the site.

ANALYSIS OF ARTIFACTS:- Human artifacts come in many forms. The most durable are stone tools and clay vessels, while those in wood and bone often perish in the soil. Archaeologists have developed elaborate methods for classifying artifacts of all kinds, classifications based on distinctive festures like the shape of clay vessels, painted decoration on the pot, methods of stone flaking and so on. Once they have worked out a classification of artifact types, the experts use various arbitrary units to help order groups of artifacts in space and time.

These units include the assemblage, which is a diverse group of artifacts found in one site that reflect the shared activities of a community. Next is the component, a physically bounded portion of a site that contains a distinct assemblage. The social equivalent of an archaeologists component is a community. Obviously a site can contain several components, stratified one above another. The final unit is the culture a cultural unit represented by like components on different sites or at different levels of the same site, although always within a well defined chronological bracket.

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Archaeological cultures are concepts designed to assist in the ordering of artifacts in time and space. They are normally named after a key site where characterstic artifacts of the culture are found. For instance, the Acheulian culture of early prehistory is named after the northern French town of st. Acheul where the stone hand axes so characteristic of this culture are found.

FOOD REMAINS:- How did prehistoric people make their living?. The answer comes not only fron artifacts like some stone axes and digging sticks, but from food remains of all kinds. Animal bones provide valuable information on hunting practices, on herding and management of domesticated animals and on butchery techniques. For example, a band of paleo- Indian hunters drove a large bison herd into gully at Olsen- Chubbock, Colorado, in 6000 BCE. By analyzing the thousands od bison bones in the gully, archaeologists have managed to reconstruct the standardized butchery techniques the Indians used after the hunt. Plant remains survive at many sites and can be recovered by using flotation techniques, that is, floating soil samples through water and fine screens and collecting the light seeds from the surface while the residue falls away. Ancient seeds show us that foraging for wild plant foods was of vital importance to human societies from the earliest times.

These are some of the artifacts in the Ancient India. They are also discovered by the same process.


Nov 11, 2008

A new pyradmid was discovered beneath Egyptian sands. Archaelogists found remnants of white limestone casing for the surviving, 16 foot tall pyramid base. The angle of the base helped them determine that the pyramid’s wall stood at a 51 degree angle. Based on that angle, the team determined that the pyramid was originally 46 feet tall and about 72 feet square at its base.

MONA LISA PAINTING:- Mona Lisa is also known as La Gioconda is a 16th century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.

The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a woman whose expression is often described as enigmatic.The ambiguity of the sitter’s expression, the monumentality of the half-figure composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the painting’s continuing fascination. Few other works of art have been subject to as much scrutiny, study, mythologizing and parody.


The History of the world would not be enlightened if there would be no artifacts or texts available. Everyday new things are being discovered through artifacts and texts. Great relations are made through the links of one thing with others. Though history is a conclusion or analyzing of the art and the texts, it is not exact or 100% correct. There are chances of miscalculations of the ages. The pictures sometimes are made imaginary or sometimes the relations are made on assumptions. So the history is sometimes agitated while studying it through artifact and texts.

Reference:- 1.http://books.google.co.in/books?id=MziRd4ddZz4C&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=study+of+world+history+through+artifacts&source=bl&ots=Y5cPeavfvJ&sig=q4SuTqCVgCKHeuyyFkeq6E_NEpY&hl=en&ei=lHTWTIbuBoWsvgPO1J2zCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=study%20of%20world%20history%20through%20artifacts&f=false

2. http://www.thisismyindia.com/ancient_india/ancient-india-artifacts.html

3. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081111-new-pyramid-egypt.html

4. http://www.worldhistory.com/artifact/16835/The-Mona-Lisa.html

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