18. The Tuscan arch, where the extrados takes the form of a pointed arch.
(R. P. S.)
ARCHAEOLOGY (from Gr. ἀρχαῖα, ancient things, and λόγος,, theory or science), a general term for the study of antiquities. The precise application of the term has varied from time to time with the progress of knowledge, according to the character of the subjects investigated and the purpose for which they were studied. At one time it was thought improper to use it in relation to any but the artistic remains of Greece and Rome, i.e. the so-called classical archaeology (now dealt with in this encyclopaedia under the headings of Greek Art and Roman Art); but of late years it has commonly been accepted as including the whole range of ancient human activity, from the first traceable appearance of man on the earth to the middle ages. It may thus be conceived how vast a field archaeology embraces, and how intimately it is connected with the sciences of geology (q.v.) and anthropology (q.v.), while it naturally includes within its borders the consideration of all the civilizations of ancient times.
In dealing with so vast a subject, it becomes necessary to distinguish. The archaeology of zoological species constitutes the sphere of palaeontology (q.v.), while that of botanical species is dealt with as palaeobotany (q.v.); and every different science thus has its archaeological side. For practical purposes it is now convenient to separate the sphere of archaeology in its relation to the study of the purely artistic character of ancient remains, from that of the investigation of these remains as an instrument for arriving at conclusions as to the political and social history of the nations of antiquity; and in this work the former is regarded primarily as “art” and dealt with in the articles devoted to the history of art or the separate arts, while “archaeology” is particularly regarded as the study of the evidences for the history of mankind, whether or not the remains are themselves artistically and aesthetically valuable. In this sense a knowledge of the archaeology is part of the materials from which every historical article in this encyclopaedia is constructed, and in recent years no subject has been more fertile in yielding information than “archaeology,” as representing the work of trained excavators and students of antiquity in all parts of the world, but notably in the countries round the Mediterranean. It is for its services in illuminating the days before those of documentary history and for checking and reinforcing the evidence of the raw material (the “unwritten history” of architecture, tombs, art-products, &c.), that recent archaeological work has been so notable. The work of the literary critic and historian has been amplified by the spade-work of the expert excavator and explorer to an extent undreamt of by former generations; and ancient remains, instead of being treated merely as interesting objects of art, have been forced to give up their secret to the historian, as evidence for the period, character and affiliations of the peoples who produced and used them. The increase of precise knowledge of the past, due to greater opportunities of topographical research, more care and observation in dealing with ancient remains and improved methods of studying them in museums (q.v.) and collections, has led to more accurate reading of results by a comparison of views, under the auspices of learned societies and institutions, thus raising archaeology from among the more empirical branches of learning into the region of the more exact sciences. This change has improved not only the status of archaeology but also its material, for the higher standard of work now demanded necessarily acts as a deterrent on the poorly equipped worker, and the tendency is for the general result to be of a higher quality.
The archaeological details concerning all subjects which have their “unwritten history” are dealt with in the separate articles in this work, including the ancient civilizations of Assyria, Egypt and other countries and peoples, while the articles on separate sites where excavations have been particularly noteworthy may be referred to for their special interest; see also Anthropology; Ethnology, &c. It remains here to deal generally with the early conditions of the prehistoric ancient world in their broader aspects, which constitute the starting-place for the archaeologist in various parts of the world at different times, and the foundations of our present understanding of the primitive epochs in the history of man.
The beginning of archaeology, as the study of pre-documentary history, may be broadly held to follow on the last of the geological periods, viz., the Quaternary, though it is claimed, and with some reason, that traces of man have been found in Quaternary period. deposits of the preceding or Tertiary period. Although there is no valid reason against the existence of Tertiary man, it must be confessed that the evidence in favour of the belief is of a very inconclusive and unconvincing kind. The discussion has been mainly confined to the two questions (1) whether the deposit containing the relics was without doubt of Tertiary times, and (2) whether the objects found showed undoubted signs of human workmanship. Vast quantities of material have been brought forward, and endless discussions have taken place, but hitherto without carrying entire conviction to the minds of the more serious and cautious students of prehistoric archaeology. A chronic difficulty, and one which can never be entirely removed, is our ignorance of the precise methods of nature’s working. It is an obvious fact, that natural forces, such as glacial action, earthquakes, landslips and the like, must crush and chip flints and break up animal remains, grinding and scratching them in masses of gravel or sand. If it were possible to determine with precision what were the peculiarities of the flint or bone, thus altered by natural agencies, it would be easy to separate them from others purposely made by man to serve some useful end. Our present knowledge, however, does not allow us to go so far in dealing with the ruder early attempts of man to fabricate weapons or implements. Even the one feature that is commonly held to determine human agency, the “bulb of percussion,” cannot be considered satisfactory, without collateral evidence of some kind. Flint breaks with what is called a conchoidal fracture, as do many other substances, such as glass. Thus on the face of a flint flake, at the end where the blow was delivered to detach it from the nodule, is seen a lump or bulb, which is usually regarded as evidence of human workmanship. To produce such a bulb it is necessary to deliver a somewhat heavy blow of a peculiar kind at a particular point of a flattened surface; and the operation requires a certain amount of practice. The fulfilment of all the necessary conditions might well be a rare occurrence in nature, and the bulb of percussion has come to be regarded as the hall-mark of human manufacture; but recent investigations have shown that the intervention of man is not necessary and that natural forces frequently produce a similar result. When, therefore, it is a question whether or no a group of rude flints are of human workmanship, evidence of design or purpose in their forms must be established. If this be found, and in addition if a number of flints, all having this character of design, be found together, then and then only is it safe to admit them into the domain of archaeology. There can be no doubt that much time and energy have been wasted, and a number of intelligent workers have been fruitlessly occupied in following up archaeological will-o’-the-wisps, through neglecting this elementary precaution.