Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Archaeological Digs

In the previous installment (Archaeological Digs – Part 1), we told you how the ancient site at Priniatikos Pyrgos was excavated by archaeologists. In this report we consider what happens to things found during the dig.

Unearthed items are studied to learn about the people and culture that created or used them. Afterward these objects may become part of a university collection (for future analysis) or put on exhibit in a museum. However, what you see in a display case may be very different from what an archaeologist uncovered.

More often than not, the archaeology excavation crew finds bits and pieces encrusted with ancient dirt, corroded beyond recognition, or disintegrating upon exposure to air and sunlight. Even large artifacts – such as statues – are often found broken and embedded in hard layers of soil or ash. However, there are specialists who can preserve these ruins and transform them into objects that can be studied and appreciated for their utility and beauty. At the Center we learn how research and conservation specialists work with the finds from Priniatikos Pyrgos.

The first priority of every archaeologist is to ensure the survival of things found. This is usually the responsibility of specialists called conservators. Their work is time-consuming and expensive – often costing more than the original excavation. Without conservators, however, artifacts might disintegrate and important historic data could be lost forever. The loss is not just to the excavator but also to future archaeologists and students, who may want to re-examine the materials.

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