The Limits of Archaeology

Is Archaeology Sufficient to Provide Answers?


Modern day archaeology has assumed the role of supreme judge of what is true and what is not in relation to our past. It considers itself to be the ‘Status Quo’ and no one can go against it. Yet as easily as it can claim that the Bible or the myths of different cultures are fairy tales, it superciliously selects parts of those myths & legends and baptizes them as true events—so long as they are supported by archaeological evidence. A well-known example is the discovery of Mycenae and Troy by Schliemann, which promoted the Homer’s Iliad from ‘fairy tale’ to history.

Human tendency is to defend our opinions and the status quo in any way possible, even if that means to become blind to reality. We tend to try to justify what we believe by altering reality to fit into previously accepted ideas. However, major discoveries in known human history have been achieved by those people who have fought against this tendency and who were isolated by mainstream science, even society. Following are a few well-known examples:

Nicolaus Copernicus was the first in modern times to suggest that the Sun is the center of our solar system and the Earth revolves around it. He faced the opposition of the Catholic Church and Martin Luther, as well as other scientists of that era. It took a few centuries for his ideas to become accepted.

Galileo Galilei later faced similar opposition from astronomers who doubted his heliocentric idea.

Mare Curie faced great opposition from scientists in France and never received significant financial benefits from her work.

Einstein initially wasn’t accepted by the scientific community and he tried very hard to overcome opposition to his theories.

Guglielmo Marconi was considered crazy when he wanted to send wireless signals across the Atlantic. His idea has since pioneered radars, radio, TV, etc.

When the Wright Brothers wanted to create a flying machine, they were laughed at. This list can go forever. A sample of non-conventional scientists can be found here.

The Limits of Archaeology

If we focus now on archaeology itself and its limitations, we will realize that in many ways it is an overestimated science. Below is a list of a few of the obstacles it is faced with.

·       Archaeology cannot advance without historical records that support or guide archaeological discoveries.

·       The evidence left behind by ancient civilizations is very limited. Informative day to day items such as wood, food and clothing decay quickly and, with a few exceptions, are very rare finds.

·       Dating methods are inaccurate. Non-organic material cannot be dated with the exception of pottery; however, the recently developed method of thermoluminescence may advance this limitation.

·       All the known sites through our texts have not been fully excavated.

·       A very small percentage of what has been excavated has been published, and what is published is usually chosen because it coincides with the currently accepted evidence.

·       A lot of evidence has been destroyed by succeeding generations. For example, it was common practice for new kings to destroy the records of their predecessors.

Archaeological methods are constantly improving and evidence re-examined, offering new explanations. 100 years ago what was considered truth for archaeology is now considered incorrect by the same group.

This is not to discredit the importance of archaeology as a field and what it has contributed to human knowledge; it is only to highlight the same flaw that is found within most people – the tendency to fit evidence into what we believe to be true. Many great people of the past who left incredible texts with valuable information about ancient societies, have had them chalked up as myths and false information simply because no archaeological evidence has yet been found supporting them, or because they consider the authors primitive. The irony is that these so-called ‘primitive’ civilizations—like those of Ancient Greece and Egypt, Babylonia, the Mayas, and many other civilizations—are the ones that we admire today. We use their principles—like democracy—and copy their architecture, though we are nowhere close to achieving what they have.

It looks as though the arrogance of our own civilization has reached such levels as to lead us to our own destruction with mathematical precision.

I will finish with two quotes:

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. – Einstein

When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. – Jonathan Swift

By John Black

Related Links

They Laughed at Galileo

The Exodus Controversy

The Limits of Archaeology

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John Black

Dr John (Ioannis) Syrigos initially began writing on Ancient Origins under the pen name John Black. He is both a co-owner and co-founder of Ancient Origins.

John is a computer & electrical engineer with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, a... Read More

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