Who Digs Up the Past? The Roles of Archaeologists and Local People

People commonly wonder who digs up the past and why they’re doing it? Who are these archaeologists, what role do they play, and what do they want with all that dirt anyway? If you’ve ever wondered about this, there are quite a few answers to be found on this topic, ranging from the answer of what archaeologists do to how archaeologists work with local people. Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at those answers, as well as tips on how you can get involved and help out with some archaeological excavation projects yourself!

Forensic Archaeologists

In addition to their work on crime scenes, forensic archaeologists also provide support to victims of mass disasters, such as plane crashes or natural disasters. They work to identify human remains and personal belongings, which can help bring closure to families who have lost loved ones.

Applied Environmental Anthropologists

Tribals around the world have long been stewards of their local environments. Scientists are only now beginning to understand the role that tribals play in environmental management. Historians are also working to document the history of tribals and their interactions with the environment. Applied Environmental Anthropologists are working to formalize the role of tribals in environmental management and to help tribes gain recognition for their work.

Forensic Anthropologist

A forensic anthropologist is a scientist who studies human remains in order to learn about an individual’s life and death. This information can be used to solve crimes, identify victims of mass disasters, and understand our shared history. Forensic anthropologists work with archaeologists, historians, and other scientists to piece together the story of a person’s life.

Human evolution
Human evolution

Physical Anthropologist

Physical anthropologists work broadly on three major sets of problems:

1) They work on problems of human variation and adaptation, both in the present and in the past. This includes studies of genetic diversity, population history, and health.

2) They work on problems of human ecology, investigating how different societies adapt to their environments.

3) They work on problems of human evolution, investigating how our species has changed over time.

Cultural Anthropologist/Archaeologist

Malinowski with natives of the Trobriand Islands. (Roles of Archaeologists)
Malinowski with natives of the Trobriand Islands.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

One type of archaeologist is the cultural anthropologist/archaeologist. This type of archaeologist studies human societies and cultures. They often work with historians to learn about past cultures. They use this information to help explain present-day cultures.

Local people

The Roles of Archaeologists and Local People
The Roles of Archaeologists and Local People

In many parts of the world, it is local people who first become aware of archaeological sites. Farmers ploughing their fields or building a new house may uncover artefacts that have lain hidden for centuries. Shepherds tending their flocks on hilltops may come across an ancient burial site or a lost city. In some cases, people actively search for archaeological sites, using metal detectors to find buried objects.

Recommended Reads
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *