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Archaeology and the Contemporary World

It is often argued that archaeology has little or no role in the contemporary world beyond providing generalised reconstructions of the human past. However, this is not the case. Archaeology can be applied in the modern world in a multitude of ways, applying the past as a model for improvement on the future. Three examples of this are the applications of archaeological discoveries in modern architecture, developments in agriculture, and as a way to adapt to climate change. Archaeological studies in ancient architecture can teach us how to build for certain needs, and can reveal exciting new ways to build around our ever-changing world. Examples of this are especially prominent in the United States of America, where common structures such as stadiums, theatres, and libraries are modelled closely to the architecture of Ancient Greece. American theatres take a vast portion of their architecture from that of the Ancient Greeks because the innovative design of Greek theatres can be applied so well to modern theatre. The Ancient Greek theatre is comprised of four main parts: the orchestra, the theatron, the skene, and the parodoi. These four sections are arranged so that the theatron is a seating area arranged in a semicircle, surrounding the orchestra, which would sit directly in front of the skene, and the parodoi would be used for performers to move on and off of the stage (Wesley 2012). American theatres directly reflect this, having a seating area, similar to that of the Greeks theatron, surrounding a stage, behind which sits a backstage areabeing the equivalent to the skene. The side stage area is the modern version of the Greek parodoi. Some may argue that American theatres were not modelled on Ancient Greek theatres because the two also display many differences in their

structure. For example, modern American theatres have been altered to use a rectangular stage rather than the round orchestra of the Ancient Greek theatre and possess steeper seating arrangements for optimised acoustics. However, these qualities are taken from those of the Ancient Roman theatre, which is quite similar in design to that of the Greeks (Ching et al. 2011). Considering this, it can be seen that American theatres are a great example of structures that have been influenced by ancient architecture, and are continuing to change with the needs of performers and the discoveries being made as more ancient structures are being uncovered. Humans can learn how to adapt to climate change by studying the people of the past and how they lived. Archaeologists have found that humans were present north of the Arctic Circle almost 40,000 years ago, during the last ice age and that temperatures were always 10C colder than those of today (Gowlett 2001). By taking note of the actions these people took to survive the harsh cold and the rising and falling sea levels, it is possible to prepare for climate change in the modern world. During the ice age, plant life was limited due to the extreme cold, and so humans consumed mostly meat that had been caught in traps set out by the men. Evidence has also been found suggesting that fruit and vegetables were preserved in the permafrost for later consumption by the people (Hetherington 2012). It can be argued that the way humans lived during the ice age is no help to the contemporary world where temperatures are rising. However, after the ice age temperatures rose again and humans were forced to adapt to a warmer world, facing the similar challenges to those of today- such as rising sea levels. If archaeologists continue to study the actions of humans during and after the ice ages, the people of today will be better equipped for any change in temperature that the world faces.

Archaeologists have also been known to uncover forgotten methods of farming, which, upon their discovery, have improved greatly on the farming industry worldwide. For example, archaeologists digging ancient crops in the lowlands of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, discovered a longforgotten method of frost-proofing potato crops during the colder nights. The ancient crops consisted of layers of gravel, clay, and soil, and then had shallow irrigation canals alongside the raised fields (Fagan 2011, p24). A replica of these fields not only grew new potato sprouts that were much higher than those being grown by farmers on the higher plains but the potato plants also had a much higher resistance to frost in comparison to the others, which withered overnight. It could be argued that this method of farming may have been re-discovered by farmers further down the track, but in a time where global hunger is at an all-time high, it needs to be appreciated that archaeologists are bringing great improvements to the world of farming. Fagan states that today, more than 1,500 modern farmers have rediscovered the benefits of raised fields and dozens of nearby communities clamour for training in ancient agriculture. With the help of archaeologists, farmers may find that the future of agriculture lies in the past. Archaeology can be applied to contemporary society in a multitude of ways and can provide much more than just generalised reconstructions of the human past. Archaeological discoveries have led the people of today in developing and improving architecture, agriculture, and can be used as guide for adapting to climate change. important to understand the past. Archaeology holds the key to the future because in order for society to progress, it is

References:
CHING ET AL., 2011. A Global History of Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. FAGAN, B.M., 2012. Ancient lives: an introduction to archaeology and

prehistory. Boston: Pearson.


GOWLETT, JOHN A J. 2001. Out in the cold. Nature, 413(6851), pp. 33. HETHERINGTON, R. and EBOOKS CORPORATION, 2012. Living in a

dangerous climate: climate change and human evolution. New York:


Cambridge University Press. WESLEY, A., 2012. Greek Architecture Influences Americas Architecture. Anns Web. Np, nd Web, 23.