Science

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Stringer/AP
A team from Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) are seen working
at an excavation site in Fromelle, northern France, Monday, June 2,
2008. (AP)

Recent Finds Draw Attention to the Oft-Painstaking Field of Archaeology

August 22, 2008 03:21 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Two significant discoveries this month underscore a big year for archaeology, but the field is not quite as glamorous as it is often portrayed.

Archaeology

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With discoveries around the globe and the release of the latest installment in the Indiana Jones series, loosely based on the dusty, relic-driven profession, archaeology has had a big year.

On August 21, the 2006 discovery of a trove of fossils in Venezuela was announced. Oil workers laying pipeline stumbled upon a 1.8 million-year-old relic of a saber-toothed cat never before seen in South America, which could provide clues into the connection of North and South America.

Venezuelan paleontologist Ascanio Rincon told the Associated Press, “The deposit could be one of the most important in South America in the last 60 years.”

On August 20, a local German newspaper in the state of Saxony announced the discovery of traces of dinosaur believed to be 250 million years old, 15 million years older than what scientists currently believe dinosaurs to be. The finding has not been confirmed, however.   

Germany has “long been providing clues to the earliest years of dinosaur life,” including the 1863 discovery of Archaeopteryx, the dinosaur skeleton that first provided a link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

As exciting as these discoveries have been, they don’t quite measure up to the fictionalized Indiana Jones films that present archaeology in an unrealistically glamorous way.

David Germain of the Associated Press interviewed archaeologists to get the scoop on what their lives are really like. The answers were far from Hollywood, and more akin to academic life, with students “painstakingly sifting through grids to retrieve artifacts as mundane as pottery fragments.”

Said archaeologist Bryant Wood, of Associates for Biblical Research, “It is rather adventurous in a way … you’re going to some exotic country and delving into their past.”

But that’s not all. Wood describes working at the same site “tediously, probably for many, many years,” with much of the time spent writing reports.

Background: 2008 Discoveries

In addition to the two big finds in August 2008, this year has seen other noteworthy archaeological discoveries. In March, National Geographic reported on a temple predating the Inca Empire that was uncovered near Cusco, Peru.

In June, archaeologists in Rihab, Jordan, revealed that they’d found what could be the world’s first Christian Church. The church was discovered in a cave below the ancient St. Georgeous Church—itself one of the world’s oldest.

Also in June, Newsweek reported that work on Rome’s 15-mile, $4.7 billion subway project had already resulted in several big finds: imperial homes, Roman tombs containing the remains of two children still encased in the burial amphorae, and the remnants of the medieval Via Flaminia road that once crossed the city, to name a few.

The discoveries have slowed progress on Rome’s subway, as it is nearly impossible to dig anywhere in Rome without finding something of historical relevance.

Related Topic: European archaeology

Reference: Archaeopteryx

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