The first archaeological excavations were carried in the 17th century in England by the archaeologist, John Aubrey. The sites that underwent the excavations were the Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments. The analysis Aubrey went through were all ahead of his time of his findings.
Archaeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains. The word archaeology comes from a Greek word archeo-logia which means the study of the ancient excavations and remains.
Stonehenge, one of the most famous landmarks in England is considered to be the British cultural icon. Located in the Wiltshire, 8 miles north of Salisbury, is believed by the archaeologists that it may have been constructed between 3000 B.C to 2000 B.C. Stonehenge’s ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England. It also comprises of several burial mounds. Stonehenge could have been an entombment ground from its initial beginnings. Deposits containing human bone which date from as early as 3000 BC, when the first archaeological excavation in Human History was done.
Few reports suggest that Stonehenge has a long relationship with astronomers. In the year 1720, Dr Halley used positions of the rising sun and magnetic deviations to find out the age of the monument. 460 B.C was the date concluded by him later. Another astronomer John Smith sited that the estimated total of 30 sarsen stones multiplied by 12 astrological signs equalled 360 days of the year, while the inner circle symbolised the lunar month.
The first mention of Stonehenge appears to be in the year 1100 A.D. It was then known as the ‘stanenges’. This shows how human history has evolved through centuries and how the curious little brain of man has developed. By the dawn of the 20th century, the site was considered to be in a sorry state according to the English Heritage due to more than ten recorded excavations.
Out of the early excavations, the first of the few excavations were carried out in the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The excavations in these towns began in the year 1748 and 1738 respectively. These towns were buried under the ashes and when first excavated, the basilica and the Villa of Papyri were discovered. What shook the entire Europe was the discovery of entire town with utensils and human shapes after the very first excavation. Napoleon and his followers carried out the first ever overseas excavation during his Egyptian campaign. Decrypting the Rosetta Stone assisted the discovery of hieroglyphs which later proved to be the key to studying Egyptology.
William Cunnington was the father of the archaeological excavations. Archaeology has been important in the human history as it has helped us widen our knowledge about ancient human settlements and their past interactions with objects and architecture. The first excavations were not just important to start museums and write history books, but it has also assisted us to understand our roots, where we came from and who we are. Without this information, we would’ve not been able to progress ourselves into the society we are today.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge