Islamic Archaeology essay



MachuPicchu was built in the 15th century for the Inca Emperor and is asign of the Inca civilization. The estate was lost to the Spanishafter a territorial conquest. The property`s design is centered onthe traditional Inca style of construction using stone walls. MachuPicchu was later declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary. HiramBingham III (the third) is recorded as the first foreigner todiscover the Machu Picchu ruins in 1911. Bingham`s determinedexploration for the legendary Incan capital ended on July 24, 1911.

Assistedby a group of pleasant local farmers, Hiram the third marched intothe mountains escorted by a native tour guide and a Peruvian policeofficer until they suddenly found themselves in the middle of ajungle-covered maze of small and large walls and stones. Theirbewilderment interest grew until they came to the realization thatthey were in the midst of incredible ruins situated in Peru(Thompson, 2010). When Bingham discovered the Machu Picchu site, itwas only noticeable to a trained eye of an archaeologist because itwas out of sight, concealed by the farms that the locals had setaside as vegetable gardens, and some for farming. The explorer wasnot able to study the entire site however, he did some initialevidential study such as taking photographs and making records of theremaining architecture of several structures.

Thediscovery of the ruins triggered a scientific study of the rubble bythe Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition (YPSE). They initiated threeperiods of excavation in 1912, 1914 and 1915. According to Thompson(2010), this was the primary method used to study the Machu Picchuruins. This was not the historical Vilcabamba city that thearchaeologist was seeking, but the site`s elegant architecture andgrand vistas suggested that it held some importance for the Inca.

Theprocedure was initialized by field walking, in which the explorer wasable to gather valuable information by taking photographs and asample of the stone in the rubble. When he went back to theuniversity, he was met by a group of historians and experts who tookan interest in the site. Further study was started off with aresearch design that was prepared to cover the entire area. Thisincluded the formulation of the excavation method depending on thetopography, the actual procedural digging of the site, the collectionof the material and the recording of the information to preserve thefacts. The excavation period ran from 1912 to 1915 with differentprocesses taking place at different times.

Accordingto Thompson (2010), there were about five thousand artifacts thatwere discovered in Machu Picchu in all the three excavationprocedures. Bingham further excavated the ruins in 1915 together withthe Peruvian archaeologist, Luis Valcarcel. The evidence came up withthe discovery that the site was initially a hidden place withbarracks, inns, and a signal tower along the foot highway. The 1912excavation conducted by the Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition(YPSE) pulled out evidence that the old population of Machu Picchuwas diverse in both age and gender.

Areport from an osteologist working on the Machu Picchu projectestablished that more than one hundred skeletons that were identifiedas females while more than twenty that were male according toThompson (2010). Armed with this data, the team was able to affirm atheory stated earlier that the inhabitants who lived in the MachuPicchu were ‘the chosen women,` whose primary economic activity wasweaving for their premiers. It is the opinion of Thompson (2010) thatmost of the items that were found from the site were metallic such asgold, iron and silver, which gives an evidence of early metalcraftsmen at Machu Picchu. The artifacts recovered in the maingallery are numerous and are of significant importance to the studyof the region. They include metal objects like shawl pins (tupus) andknives. The principal method used in the study of the Machu Picchuruins was excavation. In the subsequent section, we will examine indetails excavation as an archaeological method.

Excavationmethodology of archaeological study according to the case study ofMachu Picchu

Thompson(2010) defines excavation as a process of uncovering, exposing, andrecording of archaeological data. There are many approaches toconducting excavations such as aerial photography, desktop survey,where known sites in a location are checked on the Sites andMonuments Record (SMR), or ground-penetrating radar, resistivity, andmagnetometer surveys. These techniques, used in combination withothers, are used to discover patterns of low and high resistivitybelow the ground, contour and environmental surveys, fieldwalking,oral history, and excavation. A site is the area under study and iscustomarily a location where a suspected historical activitytranspired. An excavation may take a few weeks spanning into yearsfor a phenomenon to be studied and satisfactory results deducted fromthe site. Other studies typically precede excavation in such a waythat before excavation begins, the presence of archaeological remainscan be suggested. Examples of such approaches include remote sensingand ground- penetrating radar.

Accordingto Thompson (2010), the commonly employed excavation method isresearch excavation. With this approach, resources are allocated tolead the research at a consistent pace with the intention of gainingthe most knowledge regarding a site. This method is frequentlyemployed on sites endangered by natural erosion or human actions likeconstructions hence, archaeologists need to recover the maximuminformation they can before the location is destroyed. The methodemployed in the Machu Picchu site was research excavation because theprocess was done thrice in subsequent periods of 1912, 1914 and 1915so as to extract reliable information from the excavation process.

Methodologyof excavation

Apermit has to be given by the government before the projectcommences. In this instance, for example, the Peruvian governmentgave the Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition the permission toexcavate the site with the exclusion that all the artefacts would bereturned to Peru after the study. The procedure of excavationinvolves several stages which include survey, research design,recovering of artifacts, categorizing, and then the post-excavationstage (analysis by professionals). A project begins with a study ofthe land which involves an analytical view of the area under study.Archaeologists may search for the land manually, on foot, or they mayuse aerial view where the terrain is rough a method which is lessthorough in searching for the excavation sites.

Inthis stage, an archaeologist searches for anything that looksunnatural in a site of interest. Hiram Bingham III discovered theMachu Picchu ruins because the layers of rock looked like they wereonce part of a building therefore causing a spike of interest forthe archaeologist to inspect the land further. This eventuallyoccasioned a follow-up of excavations of the ground in the followingyear, 1912, to study the location`s history (Thompson, 2010). Anarchaeologist is always alert for things such as an unfamiliar row ofrocks, depressions or mounds of sand, chips of stone or potteryshards. After a site is identified, the location is recorded, and asite form is filled. The archaeologists then evaluate the site torate the value of the information he/she will get, and a decision isdrawn whether excavation is justified or not.

Aresearch design is prepared to identify the questions that will beanswered by the excavation results, the techniques that will be used,and the methods of data analysis of data. A group of professionalswith diverse skills such as geologists, botanists, and historians, isassembled to handle the project. The vegetation is cleared before thecommencement of the excavation process. Excavation initially involvesthe removal of any top layer of soil accomplished by excavatingmachines. Metal detectors may be used to examine this material forstray discoveries. It is a preferred goal of excavation processes toremove all archaeological deposits in the reverse order in which theywere created.

Howthe data is collected

Archaeologiststhen construct a Harris matrix as a chronological record (sequence)of the site for better understanding of the events occurrence order.Therefore, as Thompson (2010) explains, a grid is created to maintainthe context, which is the relationship or interrelation of theartifacts and the features discovered. The most important part of thepreliminary study is to record a timeline of the events by examiningthe context of the excavation site from previously documented data.Each excavated item is given a unique number according to the study,which is then registered on a &quotbackground check&quot sheet, andthen drawn on a plan. Each excavated item may also be photographed.Additional information such as the height above sea level and theexact location regarding the longitude and latitude where the itemswere found are also recorded. The items are then packed according totheir unique number and the site name for later reference and furtherstudies.

Artifactsthat are retrieved are collected by hand. Depending on the timeavailable, methods such as sieving and floating may be used touncover small items like flints of pottery. Retrieval mostly aids inthe process of spot-dating, where the archaeologists give a roughestimate of the period that the artifact was placed at the positionand record information that may be erased by packing and transfer ofthe material (ibid). Excavation in the modern day is used mostly inthe recovery of vital materials that are crucial to the study ofhuman history. For example, the study of the Machu Picchu artifactsenabled the archaeologists to verify the economic activity of thepeople and the fact that last residents of Machu Picchu includedwomen and men who wove clothing items.

Duringthe process, several photographs are usually taken to document thecondition of the area under study. Maps and drawings of the area arethen created. Excavated objects are collected as samples anddelivered to experts for in-depth study. When the entire process isfinished, the excavation site is usually filled back with the layersof soil that were dug out or a construction process is allowed toproceed. Some of the examples of artifacts that were excavated fromthe Machu Picchu ruins include conical jugs (used for ceremonialofferings are from Incan times), ceramics or miniature aryballos witha globe-shaped body covered with stone slabs forming a circle knownas &quotapachetas,&quot used as ceremonial jars. In addition tothese, different kinds of stone brought by the ancient pilgrims fromvarious parts of the neighboring region were found at Machu Picchu.

Advantagesof excavation

Excavationis barely used in this day and age due to an increase in the level oftechnology used. This process is mainly used today in the rescueexcavation type. Here excavation is done at a restricted time to findany material or objects buried and learn the history of a locationbefore a construction site is set up or in an area where erosion isbound to occur. This material may be used to advance the study ofother disciplines like economics and human biology. It providesinformation that upon further studies and use of methods such ascarbon dating and study of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples givesinformation such as the culture of people, the societal hierarchy,their surroundings and their trade behavior. In the example givenabove the Machu Picchu historians and analyst were able to describethe culture of the inhabitants of the region.

Thewomen were weavers and the men who used metals to make the objectsused for activities. Excavation may be used to prove a hypothesisstated earlier. When Bingham returned to Yale, he formed a theory ofthe people who lived in the Machu Picchu region. A further study byprofessionals of the area and the artefacts excavated proved that thewomen living in the region were indeed women whose primary mode ofclothing was woven skirts called ‘chicha.` Excavation is the onlyestablished method that can be used to study the environment and thechanges over time of a region. The stratigraphy of an area whenrecorded efficiently and meticulously tells its story of the peoplethe vegetation in the region, the type of animals they kept and theclimate of the region.

Disadvantagesof excavation

Andas much as excavation helps in the acquisition of information that isnecessary for the study of the history of humankind, it is also avery destructive process. The disadvantages of excavating include thefacts that it may destroy the very evidence under examination.Additionally, archaeology is a very labor-intensive process thatrequires both manual labor and diverse professional services. Also,excavation is very time-consuming because some searches may even runfor years. It is a process that requires cumbersome legal proceduresand in some occasions, permission may be denied due to religiousissues. Excavation also has the distinct disadvantage ofenvironmental and cultural pressures.


Thompson,H. (2010). LostCity of Incas.Orion: Orion.