The word Archaeology come from the Greek and means 'the study of what is ancient'. It is the past seen from a human perspective. Archaeologists, paleontologists and historians are all interested in the past, but their view points are different paleontologists study fossilized remains, while historians deal with written records the 'conscious' past. For archeologists, fossil and documentary findings are only two of many sources of information. ( Encarta 2005). Archaeologist's deal with all the information we can obtain about the past from material remains evidence that is generally biased and incomplete, but whose scope is almost unlimited.
Archaeology is the scientific study of past human culture and behavior, from the origins of humans to the present. Archaeology studies past human behavior through the examination of material remains of previous human societies. These remains include the fossils (preserved bones) of humans, food remains, the ruins of buildings, and human artifacts—items such as tools, pottery, and jewelry. From their studies, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of life. Archaeology is an important field of anthropology, which is the broad study of human culture and biology. Archaeologists concentrate their studies on past societies and changes in those societies over extremely long periods of time.
With its focus on the ancient past, archaeology somewhat resembles paleontology—the study of fossils of long-extinct animals, such as dinosaurs. However, archaeology is distinct from paleontology and studies only past human life. Archaeology also examines many of the same topics explored by historians. But unlike history—the study of written records such as government archives, personal correspondence, and business documents—most of the information gathered in archaeology comes from the study of objects lying on or under the ground.
Archaeologists refer to the vast store of information about the human past as the archaeological record. The archaeological record encompasses every area of the world that has ever been occupied by humans, as well as all of the material remains contained in those areas. Archaeologists study the archaeological record through field surveys and excavations and through the laboratory study of collected materials.
Many of the objects left behind by past human societies are not present in the archaeological record because they have disintegrated over time. The material remains that still exist after hundreds, thousands, or millions of years have survived because of favorable preservation conditions in the soil or atmosphere. For the most part, the only things that survive are durable items such as potsherds (small fragments of pottery), tools or buildings of stone, bones, and teeth (which survive because they are covered with hard enamel). Because many items disintegrate over time, archaeologists get an incomplete view of the past that they must fill in with other kinds of information and educated reasoning. On rare occasions, however, delicate objects have been preserved. For example, fabrics and flowers were found in the celebrated tomb of Tutank hamun, an Egyptian pharaoh who was buried in 1323 BC.
Archaeology became established as a formal discipline in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, most archaeological work was confined to Europe, to the so-called cradle of civilization in southwestern Asia, and to a few areas of the Americas. Today, archaeologists study the great cultural diversity of humanity in every corner of the world.
History of Archaeology
The discipline had its origins in early efforts to collect artistic materials of extinct groups, an endeavor that can be traced back to the 15th cent. in Ital when gowing interestin ancient reece inspired the excavation of Greek sculpture. In the 18th century, the progress of Greek and Roman archaeology was advanced by Johann Winckelmann and Ennio Visconti and by excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii; in the 19th cent., by the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles. The study of ancient cultures in the Aegean region was stimulated by the excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, and of Arthur Evans at Crete. The work of Martin Nilsson, Alan Wace, and John Pendlebury was also significant in this area, and the decipherment of the Minoan script by Michael Ventris raised new speculations about the early Aegean cultures.
The foundations of Egyptology, a prolific branch of classical archaeology because of the wealth of material preserved in the dry Egyptian climate, were laid by the recovery of the Rosetta Stone (see under Rosetta) and the work of French scholars who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt. Investigations that have reconstructed the lives and arts of elite segments of ancient Egyptian society and rewritten Egyptian history were carried on in the 19th cent. by Karl Lepsius, Auguste Mariette, and Gaston Maspero, and in the 19th and 20th cent. by W. M. Flinders Petrie, James Breasted, and others.
The Middle East was stimulated by the work of Edward Robinson (1794–1863) on the geography of the Bible and by the decipherment of a cuneiform inscription of Darius I, which was copied (1835) by Henry Rawlinson from the Behistun rock in Iran. Archaeology in Mesopotamia was notably advanced in the 19th cent. by Jules Oppert, Paul Botta, and Austen Layard and in the 20th cent. by Charles Woolley, Henri Frankfort, and Seton Lloyd. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, beginning in 1947, aroused new interest in biblical studies.
New World cultures was stimulated by the publication by John Stephens of an account of his travels (1839) in Central America, which excited the interest of archaeologists in the Maya. In the 19th century, studies began of the Toltec and the Aztec in Mexico and of the Inca in South America. In 1926 the discovery of human cultural remains associated with extinct fauna near Folsom, N.Mex. ( Folsom culture), established the substantial depth of prehistory for the New World ( website: Americas, antiquity and prehistory of the).
ARCHAEOLOGY OF NEPAL: ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN NEPAL
Today, classical archaeology, anthropological archaeology is concerned with culture history (i.e., the chronology of events and cultural traditions) and the explanation of cultural processes. A variety of different dating techniques, both relative such as stratigraphy and absolute like: radiocarbon, obsidian hydration, potassium-argon, is used to place events in time.
In the mid-19th century investigation is began with the stratigraphic excavation such remains as the lake dwelling, barrow, and kitchen midden. At first the sequences of culture change uncovered in Western Europe were generalized to include all of world history. But improved techniques of field excavation and the expansion of archaeological discoveries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas challenged the universality of rigid classifications. Technological traditions ceased to be regarded as inevitable concomitants of specific cultural stages.
Later interpretations of prehistoric human life emphasize cultural responses to changing demographic and environmental conditions. Thus the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods are evaluated in terms of subsistence technologies, and explanations are sought for the causes underlying these transitions. ( www. The Columbia…..)
In field of archaeology of Nepal, over the past few decades, much archaeological work has been conducted in the Terai region of the country where Nepal's first settlements were probably located. Tilaurakot for example, used to be the capital of Shakya dynasty and is situated in Kapilvastu district in western Nepal. The Present archaeological site in extends over an area of more than five kilometers. The central portion, measuring approx. five thousand meters by four thousand meters, is surrounded by the citadels of three periods. The first and second are made of muddating from 600 to 200B.C. while the third wall appears to have constructed with kiln-burnt bricks and was probably build around 150 BC. The eastern gate, the eastern stupa, the Ashita Apsidal Stupa and the defense wall were discovered at the site.
Recent excavation brought to light the majestic western gateway complexes including the watchman's room, six meters broad roads of different periods (with card-track impressions), the moat on the east and west, three periods of defense walls and the northern twin stupas with sixteen and seven meter diameters, made and enlarged between the fourth and second centuries B.C. The central portion of the site has also been excavated and various brick structures belonging to the third century BC to the second century AD have been unearthed. Water storage tanks, big jars, brick and terra-cotta ring wells and a fire-altar have also been found. Other antiquities discovered at the site are human and animal terra-cotta figurines (dated 400 B.C. to 200 AD), silver punch-marked coins, early cast coins with symbols, Kushan coins, and pieces of Sunga and Kushan pottery. Apart from these antiquities practical items such as terra-cotta cart wheels, gamesmen's figures iron implements, nails, arrow-heads, bone and copper rods, dice and fishing hooks have also been found.
Nepal's important archaeological sites are:
The excavation works on the Archelogical Study of Nepal are found to be done mainly in the Middle Wesr terai and some places of the Kathmandu Valley. The following places of the Kathmandu Valley are found to excavate in different times: Lazimpat, Bishalnagar, Handigaun, Patan Square, Dhumbarai.
The following place of the Middle West Terai is found to be excavated in different times: Lumbini, Tilaurakot, Banjarahi, Paisiya, Kundan of Lori, Gotihawa, Niglihawa, Sagarhawa.
Gotihawa – This is an important archoelogical site in nepal. These ancient ruins are situated nearly eleven kilometers south of Taulihawa, the present district headquarters. To the north of the Gotihawa village, there is an ancient brick stupa and an Ashokan monolithic column. The lower portion with its square granite base stone is still intact but the crowning features and inscriptional portions are mission. The site can be safely identified as the Nirvan stupa of Kakuchhanda Buddha (one of the previous Buddhas), whose hometown lies within one kilometer of this stupa-pillar complex.
Sagarahawa – This is another important archoelogical site in nepalThis site is located nearly two km north of Tilaurakot on the bank of the Banganga river. It was excavated in 1896 and seventeen miniature stupas were found there. In the same general region, sites of ancient civilization have been identified at Lumbini, Banjarhi, Nipaniya and Kadyatawa to mention just a few names. Several eastern region of the country, the most important which are Bhediari, Varahakshetra, Janakpur and Simarangarh.
Bhediari - Located nearly ten km south of Biratnagar, the ancient ruins this archoelogical site have revealed many important brick temples, one of which has been fully excavated. It appears to have been built in the Sunga period and shows two phases of construction. There is a two-meter high rectangular platform supported from the inside by cross walls. So far no image either of stone or terra-cotta has been found during the excavations; however, a number of silver punch-marked coins have been found.
Varahakshetra -This is another important archoelogical temple site located at the confluence of the Koka and Koshi rivers. The site is known to belong to the period of later Guptas who had issued a copper grant for the two Varaha images found there. Apart from these images, there are many miniature Gupta period temple replicas, which suggest that during the sixth to the seventh centuries AD, many such temples, and idols were made.
Narasingha Tappa – This is an important archoelogical site in nepal. Some years ago, while cultivating lands at Narasingha Tappa, close to the present town of Ithari, an idol of Vishnu was discovered. The image belongs to the fifth or sixth century AD and is based on the Gupta art school tradition. It has now been temporarily kept inside a local Shiva Temple. The site, according to local people also contains pottery items, indicating that it was inhabited as early as the Gupta dynasty (4th - 5th centuries AD).
Janakpur - At Rama-Janaki temple complex near Janakpur there is an important image depicting Uma lying over a bed and feeding a baby. Ganesh and Kumar are also depicted in the panel while on the top of the scene is a Shiva Lingam. The piece dates from the 12th or 13th century AD and belongs to the Karnatakas of Simarangarh. Some auspicious Symbols on the piece prove that it influenced the Malla art period of Katmandu.
Simarangarh - This was the old capital city of the Karnatakas of Mithila and was built by King Nanyadeva in 1097-98AD. The ruins of the city extend over the area of 16km, the whole area still being surrounded by high kiln-burnt bricks. There are more than one hundred images and sculptures scattered all over the area. Most are made of black cist stone and are nicely polished; however, a few are also made of sandstone. The images represented at the site are of Vishnu, Narayan, Lakshmi-Narayan, Shankarsana, Garudopari Vishnu, Uma-Maheshwara, Durga, Shiva and Surya (both types standing and holding lotus flowers, while leaning over a seven-horsed chariot). In different parts of Simarangarh, there are remains of temples and gateways of the old city.
Other sites bearing Karnataka images and sculptures are Kanchanpur (near Rajbiraj), Murtiya (west of Janakpur) and Valmiky Nagar (near the Gandaki Barrage), as well as several other places between the Gandaki and Saptakoshi rivers.
Archaeology is a branch of anthropology that seeks to document and explain continuity and change and similarities and differences among human cultures. Archaeologists work with the material remains of cultures, past and present, providing the only source of information available for past non literate societies and supplementing written sources for historical and contemporary groups.
Nepal is in initial stage in archaeological viewpoint. It's prehistoric and ancient historic evidence up till now discovered are very limited. Most of the prehistoric evidnces are found outside the kathmandu Valley. The concrete ancient historical evidences are confined to Tilaurakot hand Lumbini areas. Kathmandu Valley preserved ancient and medieval historical evidences. The Department of Archaeology is taking the responsibility of all the archaeologically and historically important monuments in the country.