First Archaeologists; Pompeii; Pucará de Tilcara

Who Were The First Archaeologists?

The first archaeologists were antiquarians. They looked into the past to find out how humans had evolved over time including how they lived. One of the first in Britain was Sir Richard Colt Hoare, (1758-1838) who stated “We speak from facts not theory”. This meant that they did not rely on written history for all of the facts, but looked at what had been left behind.

In England one of the first archaeological investigations happened in the 17th century at Stonehenge by Dr William Harvey and Gilbert North. Not long afterwards Inigo Jones also investigated the site. His name is very similar to the Hollywood Indiana Jones but I do not think the famous archaeologist was modeled on Inigo because he thought the Romans built Stonehenge!


Inigo Jones ©
Inigo Jones

An early American archaeologist was Caleb Atwater (1778-1867) from Ohio. He mainly studied earthworks.

Caleb Atwater ©
Caleb Atwater

A famous French archaeologist was Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) who was the first person to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Jean Francois Champollion ©
Jean Francois Champollion

A well known early British archaeologist was Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers (1827-1900). He was the first archaeologist to have a specific set way of excavating, which included writing and recording what he found. The Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford is named after him.

Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers  ©
Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers

Women in archaeology seldom get a mention especially in the early years, yet you will see that there were a number of them who did amazing work and discovered some really cool places!!

A well known American female archaeologist was Harriet Boyd Hawes (1871-1945). She was originally a nurse but then went on to discover a Minoan site on Crete, and then excavated it.

Harriet Boyd Hawes ©
Harriet Boyd Hawes

The best known early British archaeologist is Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler (1890-1976). He was a charismatic and outgoing gentleman who worked on a large number of excavations including Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in India. He wrote many papers on archaeology and the work he carried out.

Mortimer Wheeler ©
Mortimer Wheeler

The first woman lecturer at Cambridge University was Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968). She studied prehistory and some of her investigations have still not found answers today.

Dorothy Garrod  ©
Dorothy Garrod

There are many more women and men archaeologists to research – in the Web Page links below I have given some pages to start you on your quest to uncover these early pioneers that have made archaeology what it is today!!


Bahn. P., & Renfrew. C. 2008. Archaeology: Theory, Methods and Practice. Thames & Hudson.

Darvill. T. 2003. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Oxford University Press.


Archaeology Wow!! –  Pompeii

Pompeii was an Italian Roman city near Naples, Italy, covering an area of just over 170 acres.  It dates from the 7th to 6th centuries BC. In 79 CE Mount Vesuvius, a nearby volcano, erupted (1), covering the city with volcanic ash, and hiding it for around 1700 years.

Pompeii and Vesuvius ©
Pompeii and Vesuvius

The city was rediscovered in 1599 when Domenico Fontana looked at a few remains but then covered them over! In 1689 a well was dug and workmen found some walls with writing on them (3). In 1693 excavations were started by Giuseppe Macriru, but only on a small scale. In 1748 more excavation were started (2). Almost 400 bodies have been uncovered in the city (1), as well as hundreds of artefacts belonging to its inhabitants.

From then on excavations have been part of the daily life of the city. Finds include complete buildings with beautiful painting on the walls, mosaics, food and pottery still on the shelves of shops, complete roads and store fronts. Public, recreational, political and religious buildings. Even Roman graffiti!

Previously Pompeii had been described as a time capsule of history, however, it is now being found that, through archaeological work, many people had in fact left the city and only a small portion of its inhabitants remained. Those that had left took a lot of their belongings with them (1) and that is why the buildings seem to be so bare.

Pompeii Frescos ©
Pompeii Frescos

Nowadays we know that the city had separate areas for different functions

      • Political
      • Religious
      • Commercial and
      • Recreational

In 1997 Pompeii was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the most visited Italian sites and attracts major tourism.


(1) Beard. M. 2010. Pompeii: The Life Of A Roman Town. Profile Books.

(2) The Destruction of Pompeii. N.D..

(3) Amery. C., & Curran. B. 2002. The Lost World of Pompeii. Getty Publications.



Archaeological Site Guide– Pucará de Tilcara

Pucará de Tilcara is a pre-Incan fort and archaeological site just above the town of Tilcara in Argentina, South America. Its first inhabitants date from 10,000 years ago.

South America
Location of Pucará de Tilcara, South America

The fort was constructed around the 12th century, it covered 15 acres and had approximately 2,000 people living there. The sides were very steep which added to its defences. It was built by the Omaguaca tribe who were well known warriors. The houses within the fort were square, made of stone with the roofs made of straw. There were no known buildings set aside for administration or even those of a higher status, but there was what appeared to be ‘residential compounds’ with a walled space in the center (a), and at the very center is a truncated pyramid dedicated to the first archaeologists who uncovered the fort.

Area of Pucará de Tilcara  ©PhotoSphere
Area of Pucará de Tilcara

The Omaguaca people were native to the area. They practiced agriculture and had ‘large scale irrigation systems’ (b). The main crops grown by the Omaguaca include potatoes, maize, beans, quinua, squash, and algarroba. They had water channels that also supplied them with fish, and when these dried up they planted crops in them (b). Llamas were a form of transport and there is evidence of long distance exchange with other regions, which included coca. They also made their own pottery and were good weavers.

Fort ©Wikimedia Commons.
©Wikimedia Commons.

After the fort fell in 1598 to Captain Francisco de Argañaraz and Murguia.  The stones from the buildings were robbed and taken away to build structures in other places. In 1908 the first archaeological excavations were undertaken by Juan Bautista Ambrosetti. In the 1950’s ‘many structures were reconstructed’ (c).  Today there are more than 100,000 visitors each year.

The museum was built in 1966 and within its ten rooms displays over 5,000 artefacts, as well as an administration room and a library.


(a) Silverman. H. , & Isbell. W. 2008. Handbook of South American Archaeology. Springer.

(b) Saloman. F., & Schwartz. S. 1999. The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Cambridge University Press.

(c) Pucara de Tilcara. 2014. Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy Province, Argentina. World Monuments Fund. Available at


Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….



2 Comments on “First Archaeologists; Pompeii; Pucará de Tilcara

  1. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: How Does Stuff Get Covered up?; The Venus of Willendorf; Lake Mungo, Australia | The Young Archaeologist

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