One of the cornerstones of the history of humankind, Enlightenment gave rise to great hopes for building a better world and envisioning a brighter future. Placing a great emphasis on sciences, this Europe-originated optimism made waves in other parts of the world, as well. Thanks to many scientific and technological developments, in no time this vision proved to be true and convincing. The picture of human life was altering fast and irreversibly. The pace of time speeded up. Distances became shorter thanks to technological developments. Medical advances resulted in significant increases in life expectancy and quality of life. Industrial production brought about prosperity and material abundance in a greater volume and variety unseen in history up to that point. People did not have only bread but roses, too. Yet, the picture was not all bright and rosy. As some developments and incidents revealed a cold, dark and ominous side to it, more confused and suspicious, humanity began to grow a distrust in science. Was the greatest gift of history to humankind a Trojan horse after all?
Despite the clouds of confusion and doubt were setting in and blurring the vision, there remained certain scientific disciplines still opening and expanding horizons. One such discipline, without doubt, was and is archeology. Uncovering the traces of humanity from layers and piles of history through considerably arduous and delicate efforts and reconstructing humanity’s past from fragments… Surely, there is always an element of magic and hope to this discipline that is based, simply, on finding what has been lost. It is not surprising that humanity protected its faith and optimism about this discipline. Humanity loves games. Archeology is an excellent playmate, stimulating almost magical, surprising, hopeful, and reassuring feelings of uncovering, finding, and discovering. A part of nostalgia… In this article, we excavate all those layers and piles of emotions deposited in archeology and experienced by thousands of archeologists. Join us to discover!
Archaeologists encounter numerous scenarios while doing a surface survey, site exploration, and post-excavation assessments. As it happens, these scenarios bring about mixed emotions. Truly archaeology is a roller-coaster of emotions, not only for people witnessing the new discoveries but also for the archaeologists, themselves.
One of the nicest parts of being an archeologist is the thrill caused by the identification of a new site for excavation. With the news coming from the site the thrill increases in intensity. This feeling picks, in particular, when the objects have remained underground for a long time. People often are only interested in the excavation process and its results. Preparations, such as surface survey, site mapping, and photographing the site, however, start just with the arrival of news about a new excavation site. Excavation equipment is to be selected, prepared, and transported. After that long pre-excavation checklist is complete, that moment the archeologist waited for so long finally arrives. Time slows down when the archeologist is on the site way. What comes next, then? The site turns a real excitement, then.
Fear is one of the commonest emotions felt by archeologists. Why do archaeologists get scared?
Well, firstly they are afraid of damaging the artifacts. Even the thought of any direct or indirect damage on the original shape and state of findings is enough to fill the heart of an archeologist with fear. Imagine being an archeologist with a substantial accumulation of academic, intellectual, cultural, professional, and emotional experiences. This is only one side of you. You have another side: you are a human being with slippery and clumsy hands, sloppy feet, and feeble knees. You are a minefield of potential mistakes in the flesh! Worse than this is the possibility of plundering and destruction of the site and findings before the archeologists’ arrival. Imagine, after months of preparation, just when you are ready to start to work, upon your arrival all you discover is that the site has been looted brutally. A nightmare! Imagine that pain!
Thrill stimulates and demands action, fear hinders and dictates inertia. Only hope can defeat fear and motivate the archeologist to act. Archeological researches sometimes come to a deadlock. At those dark times, archeologists turn to that inexhaustible resource on earth—hope. How many times when the researches and excavation projects were about to be abandoned, archeologists turned to the resoluteness of hope and unearthed new elements of our great narrative? Hope is the last resort of archeologists. It is the only light to archeologists in dark places, “when all other lights go out.”
It is hard work and it demands patience, dedication, and perseverance. But it pays off! Content and happiness are the greatest goods. That happiness is the main source of energy for archeologists. Holding a single small remnant of the past in your hand, a piece that will change nothing but only a footnote in that great narrative of humanity, even that is pure joy! Can you imagine? It is just like discovering a time capsule left by the past for the future that is you, who brings the mystery of past to light. Probably no archaeologist would have been able to continue this hard work for a long time without the great happiness felt at every step and every stage of this effort.
Many archaeologists develop a deep emotional connection with the land, people, and culture of their research areas. Many become locals over the years. Decades of work, work that is beyond the capacity and limit of a lifetime, is transferred from one archeologist to the next. It is not surprising that some archeologists wish to be buried in the vicinity of their working site. All comes to this: Those who search for the time capsules of the past, archaeologists, do their work with passion! Archaeology is pure passion!
Happy International Archaeology Day to all of you who contribute to, work or feel enthusiasm for, and support archa