Archaeology is a source of history, not just a humble auxiliary discipline. Archaeological data are historical documents in their own right, not mere illustrations to written texts. Just as much as any other historian, an archaeologist studies and tries to reconstitute the process that has created the human world in which we live -- and us ourselves in so far as we are each creatures of our age and social environment. Archaeological data are all changes in the material world resulting from human action or, more succinctly, the fossilized results of human behavior. The sum total of these constitutes what may be called the archaeological record. This record exhibits certain peculiarities and deficiencies the consequences of which produce a rather superficial contrast between archaeological history and the more familiar kind based upon written records. Not all human behavior fossilizes. The words I utter and you hear as vibrations in the air are certainly human changes in the material world and may be of great historical significance. Yet they leave no sort of trace in the archaeological records unless they are captured by a dictaphone or written down by a clerk. The movement of troops on the battlefield may "change the course of history," but this is equally ephemeral from the archaeologist’s standpoint. What is perhaps worse, most organic materials are perishable. Everything made of wood, hide, wool, linen, grass, hair, and similar materials will decay and vanish in dust in a few years or centuries, save under very exceptional conditions. In a relatively brief period the archaeological record is reduced to mere scraps of stone, bone, glass, metal, and earthenware. Still modern archaeology, by applying appropriate techniques and comparative methods, aided by a few lucky finds from peat-bogs, deserts, and frozen soils, is able to fill up a good deal of the gap.
考古学是历史学的一个来源,而不是地位卑微的辅助学科。 考古学资料本身也是一种历史文献,而不仅仅是文字资料的例证。 正象任何一位历史学家那样,考古学家研究调查并尽力去重构一个过程。 这个过程创造了我们生活的人类世界,也创造了我们自身,因为我们都是我们所处的时代和社会环境的产物。 考古学的资料就是人类行为所造成的物质变化。 更简洁地说,是石化了的人类行为。 这些变化的总和构成了我们所说的考古学记录。 这些记录自有其独特和不足之处,因而导致人们对考古历史和更熟悉的文字记载历史进行相当肤浅的对比。并不是所有的人类行为都留下化石。 我说的话,你通过空气振动听见,这当然是人类造成的物质变化,也可能有重大的历史意义,但这些话在考古学中未留下丝毫痕迹,除非有人用录音机录下来或文书把这些话写了下来。 战场上军队的行动可能"改变历史的进程",但从考古学的观点来看,这同样是难以捕捉的;可能更糟的是,多数有机物质会腐烂。 任何由木头、生皮、绒线、亚麻、草、毛发以及相似物质做成的东西除非在一些非常特殊的条件下,几年或几个世纪以后,会在尘土中腐烂并消失。 在短时期内,能留下考古记录的东西也都会退化为石头、骨头、玻璃、金属和陶器的碎片。 然而,现代考古学通过运用适当的技术和比较的方法,在从泥炭、沙漠和冻土中所获得的一些幸运发现的辅助下,能够填充这个空缺的很大部分。