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Illuminating History by Lily Díaz, 25.IX.2000

It has been pointed out that archaeology is as much a science as an embodied practice. As a science, archaeology seeks to attain objective knowledge through empirical observation and gathering of data, and through the formulation of hypotheses which

are tested against the cannon of knowledge.1 0 0

The process of empirical observation

and gathering of data in archaeology involves the identification and surveillance of a site using archival research, the choosing of appropriate excavation strategies and recording procedures, post excavation tasks such as statistical summaries and scientific analysis of the remains found. There may also be additional work to be done with respect to conservation and consolidation of items in a perishable state.1 0 1

Although archaeology makes use of models (a selection of what is to be excavated is made, since total recovery is impossible) not much time is spent on explicit interpretation and explanations.

It has been remarked that "whether their interests are in pre-historic, historical, industrial, classical or modern societies, archaeologists are preoccupied with discerning how people and artefacts interact."1 0 2And indeed, as an embodied practice, archaeology unfolds within a community that involves people working together. Recording the context, the physical surroundings of the items excavated, as well as the interaction between the personnel at a given site, plays a key role in understanding howchoices and strategies are made during the process of excavation. Again, this is of particular importance given the fact that a selection always has to be made. This selection is done by asking "meaningful" questions and the excavation itself is seen as part of the process of answering such questions.1 0 3

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If archaeology is a science, the archaeologist is a professional who practices the

archaeological method.1 0 4

As the archaeologist labours, s/he notes the sites and

features of a region, records the position of artefacts, and illustrates the state of the site at a given point. In these chores s/he uses gadgets and tools, such as tachometers for

100. Shanks, 101. Shanks,

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p., 18. p., 15.

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Artifacts, Behavior and