Today's archaeologists try to develop a picture of an entire society. They study
not just the rich and powerful elites, but also the common people. Sophisticated
instruments such as computers, nuclear sensors, and satellite cameras help
archaeologists identify and explore promising sites and interpret
artifacts. Statistical techniques give archaeologists new tools to work with.
With all the new scientific techniques and instruments, it's important
to remember that it is human beings we are studying. Above all
else, archaeology is about understanding the peoples, cultures,
and individuals of the past through the evidence they left behind. If we can understand
their lives, we can gain insight into our own. If we can understand how
and why our ancestors made mistakes, we may avoid repeating them.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Find out more about the collapse of civilizations. Explore Web sites and books related to this exhibit in "Related Resources."