You can find out information about the history of a particular: period, person or place by:
- reading history text books in a library;
- watching or listening to documentaries;
- studying old maps;
- looking at gravestones;
- digging up the ground to find out what is underneath it;
- doing research on the World Wide Web;
- visiting museums to look at old documents (e.g. newspapers, diaries, letters etc.).
Archaeology is the study of history by looking for the remains and artefacts (objects) left from the past.
Most archaeological digs follow these steps:
- Carry out a geophysical survey of an area - this will give you a map of what is under the ground and show you the outlines of any structures which are there.
- Dig trenches (holes) at places of interest based on the geophysics map (e.g. doorways or corners of walls).
- Carefully remove and record the positions of any objects found - older objects will be found below newer objects.
- Compare the objects found with the remains of the structure to help tell the history of the site.
The further back in time you go, the less amount of artefacts which can be found. This is because:
- there were fewer people around to create them;
- the materials used have rotted away (e.g. those made from wood);
- the geography of the landscape has changed too much (e.g. the course of rivers and the shape of the coastline).
For these reasons, our knowledge and understanding of people and events before the Roman period is much less detailed than since then.