What is Prehistory?
Prehistory is the time before the written record. In terms of archaeology it starts with the advent of the first humans who began walking bipedally (upright) and continues to the first written records.
The definitive time period cannot be given as it varies in the different areas around the world. For example, in Western Europe it ended with the Roman occupation, yet in other places it was much earlier than this.
It was first called Prehistory in 1831 when Paul Tournal used it in his writings, and then again in 1851 when Daniel Wilson used it for describing some artefacts. Since then the term has been used around the world.
When studying prehistory in archaeology we study the material items, and sometimes the remains of people, from the past. These items can include pottery and ceramics, where structures once stood and left postholes, remains of buildings, pits, ditches, animal bones (the types and the amount so we can see what people were eating), personal items such as jewelry, technology in the form of tools (Stone, bronze, Iron etc), human remains and burials (artefacts with them and studying their bones for signs of trauma or disease). All of this gives us clues into how people may have lived, and died, in the past.
There may be no written records yet we learn so much from what is left behind – sort of like piecing together pieces of the past jigsaw puzzle to find how our ancestors lived!
Archaeology Wow!! – The Uluburun Bronze Age Shipwreck
The Uluburun Shipwreck dates from the Bronze Age, around the fourteenth century BC, and was discovered by Mehmed Çakir, a sponge diver, in 1982 when he was diving for sponges off the coast of south west Turkey.
Between 1984 – 1994 archaeological excavations by maritime archaeologists from the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, were undertaken. There investigations amounted to a staggering 22,413 dives by the team to investigate the site and save the artefacts.
Investigations showed that the ship was 15-16 metres long, constructed using the shell-first construction method and was made from Lebanese cedar, which is only found in Lebanon, Cyprus and Turkey.
It is beleived the ship was headed towards a Mycenaean palace in the Aegean Sea from either Cyprus or a Syro-Palestine port. During the Bronze Age the Mediterranean was the centre for international trade and had a thriving maritime network that operated within it.
The cargo from the Uluburun Shipwreck included products from at least nine different cultures; copper and tin ingots, jars, Pistacia resin, glass ingots, ivory, hippo teeth, tortoise shells, ostrich eggshells, oil lamps, cosmetic implements, beads, gold, a trumper, jewelry of gold and silver, weapons and tools, pan-balance weights, and food which included nuts, almonds, figs, olives, grapes, spices, pomegranates, wheat and barley.
The shipwreck was investigated using the triangulation method of mapping and the air-lift excavation technique where sand is vacuumed up from the sea bed.
A reconstruction of the ship and its artefacts can be seen at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, in Turkey, and is well worth a visit especially to see one of the most amazing finds – a gold scarab with Nefertiti’s name inscribed on it (ca. 1370 BC – ca. 1330 BC). She was the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt. Incredible !!
Archaeological Site Guide – Harappa, Pakistan
Harappa is a Bronze Age fortified city located in Punjab, Pakistan. Its name is taken from a small local village near to the site. The city was part of the Indus Valley Civilization.
Harappa covered 100 hectares, was fortified and set out in a grid pattern. The site included granaries and two cemeteries located just outside of its walls. The population has been calculated to be around 23,000 people and they had a sophisticated writing, social and economic system. The houses had water and drinking wells, a sophisticated water removal system, and a toilet. Outside there were drains, sewerage drains and bathing houses.
Many artefacts have been uncovered especially seals which had animal motifs on them. Agriculture was the main economy of the area.
The archaeology phases associated with the site are
c.3,300-2,800 BC Ravi Aspect of the Hakra Phase
c.2,800-2,600 BC Kot Dijin or Early Harappan Phase
c.2,600-1,900 BC Harappan Phase
c.1,900-1,800 BC Transition Phase
c.1.800-1,300 BC Late Harappan Phase
A brief outline of its discovery is
1800’s – Discovered by the British
1826 – Recorded in notes by James Lewis
1853 & 1856 – Visited by Alexander Cunningham of the Archaeological Survey of India
1872 – Brick robbed from the site by the British to assist with the building of a nearby railway
1920 – Recorded by John Marshall, the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India
1986 – George Dales from the University of California at Berkeley formed the Harappa Archaeological Research Project (HARP) to better understand and investigate the site.
Harappa is one of the earliest civilizations in the world and an incredible place to learn about human civilizations!!
Great Books to Read…….
Great Web Pages to Look At…….
Activity – Word Search 24 October 2014