The Importance of Contemporary Archaeology on Warfare

        Archaeology is often associated with the study of the distant past; however, in current decades archaeologists have been placing a larger emphasis on studying events in the more recent past (Harrison, Breithoff, 2017). This sect of archaeology is considered to be Contemporary archaeology. Contemporary archaeology allows people to interpret the more recent years of history, and analyze its direct effects on the world today. One example of Contemporary archaeology is the study of contemporary warfare.

         The archaeological study of warfare throughout all periods of history is very common. However, the relationship between archaeology and warfare is tricky, for their are immense benefits of studying warfare, yet warfare may also be detrimental to archaeological sites. For instance, the destruction of archaeological sites such the Great Mosque of Aleppo caused archaeologists a severe disadvantage. Due to the destruction, archaeologists are able to study little to nothing about the history of the mosque. Despite the major disadvantage warfare can have on archaeology, the social science itself can be considered a weapon in warfare. One example of this “weapon” is when archaeology is used to justify the actions of certain peoples (Pollock, 2017 ). For instance, archaeology has been used to justify the disposition of people from their own lands, such as the conflict in the Silwan area of Jerusalem.



(Flickr, 2010) A picture of Aleppo before destruction.

(image source: Fangi, G., & Wahbeh, W. (n.d.). THE DESTROYED MINARET OF THE UMAYYAD MOSQUE OF ALEPPO, THE SURVEY OF THE ORIGINAL STATE. Retrieved from Aleppo after destruction.

           An additional study of archaeology focuses on the engagement of material remains in the past, as well as the present (Pollock, 2017 ). Archaeology examines the themes of the past, and how they contribute to the people of the present. For archaeologists to be fully aware of events in the past, the event must have a situatedness with the people of the present. Thus, when archaeological sites are destroyed due to events such as terrorism, it makes the archaeology of that site irretrievable. Therefore, it is important to study the archaeology of warfare to be able to develop some understanding of the archaeological sites that have been destroyed. For, sometimes the archaeology of the destruction is just as valuable as the archaeology of the actual site.

          Although warfare is often very deleterious, it can also be very telling. By studying the archaeology of modern warfare, archaeologists are able to uncover answers to questions of today’s society. Therefore, it is very important archaeologists place a large emphasis on analyzing more recents events in history to prepare for a better understanding of today’s turmoil.




Harrison, R., & Breithoff, E. (2017). Archaeologies of the Contemporary World.    

           Archaeologies of the Contemporary World,46, 203-221. Retrieved November 18,    


Pollock, S. (2016). Archaeology and Contemporary Warfare. Annual Review of

          Anthropology,45(1), 215-231. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-102215-095913

Additional Readings:

Modern conflict archaeology

The Details Behind a Landscape

       Landscapes have become a major concept in archaeology. More often than not, archaeologists must study today’s landscapes to fully understand how they were used in the past. Archaeologists focus on landscapes, for “a landscape perspective can be used to address the built environment of cities, the physical layout of hinterlands, and the ways in which these distinctly shaped spaces would have been experienced by their inhabitants” (Smith, 2014). Landscapes are very important, for they hold valuable details of the people who once occupied the land.

Stone Chamber in Kent, New York (

As archaeologists study these landscapes, they find a wide variety of artifacts, and features, depending on the region they are in. For instance, if an archeologist were to explore upstate New York, such as Kent, they would be expected to find various stone chambers. These chambers could lead an archaeologist to believe these features were once used to store objects, such as grain perhaps. However, one cannot simply infer this, and be sure they are correct. Therefore, it is important archeologists study the entirety of a landscape in order to find other objects that support their ideas.

4 of the various landscapes shown to participants (Beza, 2010)

Unfortunately, archeologists do not just find artifacts from the past on these landscapes. More often than not, archaeologists encounter trash from those living today. This dumping of trash is very dangerous, for it is the beginning of a vicious cycle that depreciates the value of land immensely. In locations where there are loads of trash, most people tend to infer this land as flawed, or invaluable. For instance, a study was done by Beau Breza in the article, The aesthetic value of a mountain landscape: A study of the Mt. Everest Trek, to see what people viewed as valuable lands, versus displeasing. Participants were shown a variety of mountain landscapes and were told to rank them in an order which they found most aesthetically pleasing. After conducting the survey, it was clear the participants viewed the landscapes with more garbage as less valuable, despite the beauty underneath it (Beza, 2010). This is unfortunate, for in reality the value of land is based on what it could provide a population with, not the disrespect that has accumulated on its surface. However, once there is a noticeable amount of trash on a landscape, many people begin to believe it is acceptable to continue to trash these lands because they have already been deemed worthless. This is dangerous to archaeology, for trash hinders what details archeologists are able to uncover about the populations that previously inhabited these lands. Once a group disrupts a landscape, the untold stories of that land can almost never be retrieved. Thus, it is important to keep landscapes clean, otherwise, the information they hold may never be found.

Landscapes have a large impact on the details archaeologists uncover about the people of the past. It is important society keeps this in mind, for there are many questions still left unanswered. These answers will never be found if trash continues to accumulate on Earth’s landscapes.


Additional Content

This study was done to show how local preferences have a large effect on what landscapes are chosen for better future management and explains what characteristics of landscapes are ideal.

This study was done to discuss the pressures of urban planning in rural areas, emphasizing the need to keep the natural landscapes.



Beza, B. B. (2010, August 16). The aesthetic value of a mountain landscape: A study of the Mt. Everest Trek. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from!

Smith, M. L. (2014). The Archaeology of Urban Landscapes. Annual Review of Anthropology,43, 307-323. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-102313-025839

Image Sources

Mysterious Ancient Stone Chambers And Unexplained Energy Force In The Ninham Mountain, Putnam County. (2017, December 12). Retrieved from

Beza, B. B. (2010, August 16). The aesthetic value of a mountain landscape: A study of the Mt. Everest Trek. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from!