What is Archaeology?
Archaeology is the study of the human past through its material remains. Essentially, it is a quest to find and understand humanity in its entirety. From primates to pyramids and from Rome to reformation, archaeology encompasses every aspect of human life since its existence on earth. A combination of geology, anthropology, chemistry, history and so much more; it requires an understanding of a wide ranging field of subjects.
Why study Archaeology?
Archaeology holds a certain uniqueness in comparison to other fields. It is one of the very few subjects which involves an amalgamation of hands on physical skills with knowledge and theory. The life of an archaeologist is equally spent outdoors as it is indoors, travelling and living on a site of particular interest. Hence, archaeology is an attraction for those who enjoy travelling and bracing the outdoors, but wish to do so with a purpose. Additionally, archaeology is limitless in terms of satisfying individual interest. As its scope encompasses the entire human race, an archaeologist can specialise or study further into any aspect of humanity he so wishes, in any region or period of the world.
Archaeology and Islam
The Holy Quran speaks of the emergence of archaeology in Surah Al-Infitar “And when the graves are laid open” (82:5). It is clear Allah has deliberately allowed evidence to materialise from archaeological excavations which in turn reinforce many of the events mentioned in the Holy Quran. The destruction of civilisations and settlements such as that of Ad and Thamud (9:20, 11:69, 11:96 14:10, 25:39) as mentioned in the Quran have been discovered through excavations carried out South of the Arabian Peninsula. Furthermore, archaeological evidence has helped in understanding the path Prophet Jesus(as) undertook on his journey to Kashmir. What has yet to be located, however, is the original remains of Prophet Noah’s(as) ark. Khalifatul Masih IV in his sermon of 13th May 1983 does not rule out the possibility of the Ark being unearthed. According to evidence from the Quran (11:43-44) and historical references, it is believed the resting place of the ark was somewhere between Mount Ararat and Mount Judi in South Eastern Turkey. How fitting it would be if a Muslim, an Ahmadi Muslim for that matter, was responsible for such a discovery.
Archaeology as a Science
Although archaeology is largely a mixture of humanities and science, it is increasingly tilting towards the latter. Over the past 50 or so years, the emergence of specialised areas within the subject such as bimolecular archaeology, archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, environmental archaeology and taphonomy to name but a few, have led to a heavy reliance on the understanding and utilisation of the sciences. As it continues to grow, no doubt the requirement for scientists in archaeology will equally grow.
Find out more
There are countless books, articles, journals as well as television programmes and movies (Indiana Jones springs to mind!) that discuss archaeology in greater detail. The key thing to note, however, is the importance of this field. Perhaps this is summarised best by the prominent British anthropologist and Egyptologist Margaret Murray, “The trend of all knowledge at the present is to specialize, but archaeology has in it all the qualities that call for the wide view of the human race, of its growth from the savage to the civilized, which is seen in all stages of social and religious development.”