What is the Intent of Archaeology
Archaeology is the study of past human activities by recovering objects that constitute material culture of an era and then by analyzing them through detailed processes and sophisticated techniques. Sometimes considered a part of social sciences and at other times a branch of humanities, archaeology consists of creating and maintaining records for artefacts, architecture, eco-facts and cultural landscapes.
The intent or objective of the study of archaeology is to learn more about past civilizations and the development of humanity. Ninety nine percent of the evolution and development of humanity happened in the prehistoric culture. During these times writing was not yet invented, hence no written records were left behind to be consulted or deciphered today. In absence of written records of whatever transpired in these times, it is only through archaeology that such studies are possible. A study of past human activity, as archaeology is called, stretches back to about 2.5 million years back from today when the first of the stone tools were discovered. Most of the significant developments in the human history occurred in the prehistoric era, for example it was in the Paleolithic period humanity evolved and hominins developed from australopithecines in Africa and further into Homo sapiens. The landmark developments that led to the growth and building up pf humanity like the discovery and use of fire by humans, creation and refining of stone tools, discovery and explorations in the field of metallurgy, the initiation of belief and formation of religion and the discovery and practice of agriculture. It is only through archaeological studies and evidence that we as a race have come to know of the entire material culture and its use by humanity before the existence of written records or documentation.
It would however be unfair to say that it is only the prehistoric, preliterate cultures that can be or have been studied and analyzed through archaeology. The literate world of historical periods can and have been looked into, analyzed and deciphered under a more specific discipline named historical archaeology. It is so because in the historic period, there are substantial evidence to suggest that the written records that have survived may have been incomplete or even biased accounts of those that had an influence over it. This is so especially in case of Ancient Greece & Mesopotamia. In most of the historic cultures or civilizations literacy was restricted to the upper classes that included the clergy and the bureaucrats of the royals or religion. The royals themselves also had limited literacy which was only till the extent of understanding and implementing deeds and contracts. The world view of the literates or the elites was quite narrow and was definitely different from the rest of the populace or the masses. Those that belonged to the masses and were fortunate enough to be literate might have recorded some of the history. Their writings however were unlikely to ever reach the importance to be included in the resource centers or libraries of the times to be preserved for the future generations. Hence, the written history or records that are accessible or available to us today may have been a work of a miniscule section of the population who had limited exposure, strong biases, certain assumptions, defined set of cultural values and possibly an intent to deceive. The written records hence need support of material records and their study to be able to unearth a fairer representation of the society.