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Investigating the Ancient Past: Home

This guide will help you to learn about the methods used by ancient historians and archaeologists when investigating past civilisations and cultures.

Key Terms

​heritage - features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance

prehistory - the period of human history before there were written records of events

Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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Why study history?

A sense of the past is a light that illuminates the present and directs attention toward the possibilities of the future. Without an adequate knowledge of history, today’s events are disconnected occurrences. To compile a history records are needed. Some of these are written records: government papers, diaries, letters, inscriptions, biographies, and many others. For ancient history, especially of the Middle East and China, there are lists of kings, of wars, and of significant events such as the building of temples or natural disasters. 

History. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica.

Ancient World

Rating: E Production Year: 2016 Duration: 22:11

 
Description:

The ancient world - from 60,000 BCE to 650 CE - is the period in which early civilisations emerged. This program provides an introductory snapshot of eight of these civilisations, looking at what they had in common and how they were unique. We trace the rise, fall and legacy of the ancient societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Maya, India, China, Rome, Greece and Persia.

Historians

Historians work in a variety of workplaces doing a variety of different tasks. Some of them work in archives, while others may be employed at colleges (teaching or otherwise). Some work in museums. Most historians are researchers, gathering information about the past, maintaining existing collections of works, and also writing histories of their own culled from their research into other documents. Historians work on pulling together resources like books, articles, and even information gathered from artefacts and historical structures, in order to paint a picture of the past.

What does a historian do? (2016). Careerigniter.com

Archaeologists

The field of study called archaeology combines the excitement of treasure hunting with the investigative labor of detective work. Archaeology is the scientific study of the material remains of mankind’s past. Its discoveries are the principal source of knowledge about prehistoric cultures.

The great majority of archaeological work involves collecting, analysing, and synthesising data. The process of collecting data is divided into two parts: reconnaissance—locating and recording a site and studying the geography of the area—and excavating, or actually digging at the site. Once materials are collected, they are analysed to determine the time period and the civilisation from which they came and to reconstruct the people’s way of life. Then the information obtained from this analysis is synthesised, or collected in reports that provide histories, sometimes called cultural-historical integrations.

Archaeology. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica

Memot Centre for Archaeology, 2006.