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In prehistory the archaeologist is paramount, for here the only sources are material and environmental.
Petrie developed a systematic method of excavation, the principles of which he summarized in Mesopotamian archaeology also began with hectic digging into mounds in the hopes of finding treasure and works of art, but gradually these gave way in the 1840s to planned digs such as those of the Frenchman Henry Creswicke Rawlinson became the first man to decipher the Mesopotamian cuneiform writing.Popes, cardinals, and noblemen in Italy in the 16th century began to collect antiquities and to sponsor excavations to find more works of ancient art.These collectors were imitated by others in northern Europe who were similarly interested in antique culture.Ultimately, then, the archaeologist is a historian: his aim is the interpretive description of the past of man.Increasingly, many scientific techniques are used by the archaeologist, and he uses the scientific expertise of many persons who are not archaeologists in his work.“folk psychology.” Archaeology is fundamentally a historical science, one that encompasses the general objectives of reconstructing, interpreting, and understanding past human societies.
Isaiah Berlin’s perceptive comments on the inherent difficulties in practicing “scientific history” are particularly apropos for archaeology.
Toward the end of the 19th century, systematic excavation revealed a previously unknown people, the Sumerians, who had lived in Mesopotamia before the Babylonians and Assyrians.
The most impressive Sumerian excavation was that of the Royal Tombs at The development of scientific archaeology in 19th-century Europe from the antiquarianism and treasure collecting of the previous three centuries was due to three things: a geological revolution, an antiquarian revolution, and the propagation of the doctrine of evolution.
Conze was the first person to include photographs in the publication of his report.
Schliemann had intended to dig in Crete but did not do so, and it was left to Egyptian archaeology began with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798.
He brought with him scholars who set to work recording the archaeological remains of the country.