Ritz Carlton or Walmart?
Pottery plates, or archaeological drawings are usually penciled painstakingly by hand and inked on special paper. These drawings are the “bread and butter of archaeology,” says Bramlett. “This is most often how we date buildings and occupation layers.” In the same way that the sorts of cars in parking lots can identify a decade, details of a piece of pottery help archaeologists determine its era. “And pottery from a palace will look different from a rural village just as the cars in a parking lot of a Ritz Carlton will have some models you probably wouldn’t see by a Walmart,” Bramlett said. Three-dimensional scanning of pottery allows “new and more effective ways to compare pottery from neighboring and more distant sites to better define the relationships between ancient communities,” he said.
Zippy new software, cameras and computers may speed the analysis of found artifacts, but for archaeologists, including those newer to the field, the attraction and mystery of unearthing secrets of the past remains a key draw. “There is a basic element of curiosity—‘what will I find when I reach the floor of this room I’m excavating?’” explains Bramlett. “But more generally, and significantly, the results begin to flesh out answers to larger questions; ‘what was life like in Bible times, three millennia ago?’”
“Archaeology is a particularly important endeavor now because modernization and land development in the region in which I work (the Middle East) has reached a feverish pace and we do not know how much will be left for future generations to study,” Bramlett says. “Archaeology provides a frame upon which the details of stories make sense. It connects us to the people of the past, who, like us struggled or prospered, lived and loved, and died.”
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