Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

Query archaeological data and history sources

How 'real' is historical and archaeological evidence?

Like anything you read today, we have to be careful to analyse the information source.

A comment by someone in the local newspaper, might:

  • be incorrectly reported
  • be untrue and not based on facts
  • might follow one person's views or beliefs

If this record then gets kept, a future historian might get a one-sided or incorrect view of the now distant event.

This is true of much of the material we have to deal with from ancient societies.

From Egypt, for example, much of what has survived in writing and architecture comes from the Royal domain - the king's buildings, the Royal palaces and tombs.

This material reflects:

  • mainly what the kings were doing
  • ie the Royal households and the significant events that each of the Pharaoh's wished to record
  • it can give little information on the ordinary people, the farmers, daily life
  • their religion, habits and customs.
  • it could be exaggerated or used to promote the individuals, eg "I fought more battles than any king before me!".

Archaeological remains can likewise be:

  • incomplete
  • significantly altered by later peoples
  • or related to one group or class of people

Inspecting them today and understanding them can therefore lead to an incomplete understanding by the archaeologist.

In many cases, we need to look at a number of similar sites to get a better feeling of what was going on, and the range of material likely used by those peoples in their daily activities.

Page last updated: 31 August 2012