Indian History - General Awareness

Explain how the archaeologists reconstruct the past?

Archaeologists reconstruct the past by a study of the artefacts which they unearth. The artefacts are classified in terms of materials such as stone, clay, metal, bone and ivory. Artefacts are also classified in terms of functions. Archaeologists decide whether the artefact is a tool, ornament or something meant for ritual use.

The function of any artefacts is gleamed from its resemblance to present day things-beads, quern stone blades etc. It is also identified by investigating the context in which it was found-whether in a house, drain, grave or kiln.

Recourse is also taken to indirect evidence. For example, if traces of cotton are found at some Harappan sites, to find out its use in clothing indirect evidence including depictions in sculpture are looked at.

Archaeologists also develop certain frames of reference to study the past. The significance of the first Harappan seal was not understood till archaeologists had a context in which to place it both in terms of the cultural sequence in which it was found and in terms of comparison with finds found in Mesopotamia.

Archaeologists also believe that certain objects which seem unusual or unfamiliar may have had religious significance. Archaeologists also move from the present to the past and reconstruct the religious practices of any culture by finding similarities and comparing later traditions of a culture with the earlier traditions which might exist. They also re-examine the archaeological data provided often reversing their earlier interpretations.